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Two councillors' whopping £7,000+ since election

(October 10, 2009)
TWO councillors representing Warminster seats have claimed more than £7,000 in expenses and allowances since June's elections.
Cabinet member Fleur de Rhe Phillipe, who represents Warminster villages, claimed a gross sum of £7,833.29 and received four payments to her account adding up to a net income of £6,358.
Fellow portfolio holder Keith Humphries claimed £7,105.82 and received a net sum of £5,721 in three payments.
Councillor Andrew Davies, a committee chairman, claimed £3,559.95 gross net £3,130, while Cllr Mrs Pip Rideout received £2,690 net from a claim of £3,309.77.
Chris Newbury was the only councillor not to claim any travel expenses but he claimed £3.814.08 receiving £3,473.99 - after an allowance for being Independent group leader was included.
Former district councillor Paul Macdonald was genuinely shocked at the scale of the payments made since the election.
"I would have been quite happy to have done the job in my spare time and only received petrol expenses," he said.
"That seven grand in three and a half months is much more than I got for four years representing local people as their community politics councillor," added Paul Macdonald
Steve Dancey added: "The huge sums being given out to councillors, especially those with portfolios, will not go down well with everyone struggling to pay their 150 pounds  a month council tax bills.
"It is a complex issue, however, as there is a genuine need to ensure that people's circumstances do not stop them from seeking election yet at the same time we do not want to simply attract those who are 'in it for the money'.
"I think the real failure of local government at the present time is the cabinet and leader system which is behind some of these huge payments.
"Hopefully a new government will return us to a more sensible system in which all members can have a say and feel valued.
"Certainly if I had been elected in June and had had to give up two days a week in employment I would not have benefited financially because of the loss of income and pension entitlement. But had I  been a retired person I would have been hugely and doubly advantaged as over 65s do not pay national insurance as well as receiving private and state pensions.
"We need to ensure local government is much more open to younger people who are in employment, particularly in the private sector, if it is to become more representative and relevant.
"Wiltshire Council still has some way to go but I would suggest that they be very careful before deciding to have their allowances 'reviewed' by an independent assessment."
It should also be noted that most councillors also sit on town or parish councils where there is no payment for membership.
* The financial information was provided following a Freedom of Information Act request to County Hall. A reply is still awaited from the Fire and Rescue Authority at Potterne.

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