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Councillors' gravy train still on track

(November 13, 2009)
 LOCAL councillors will start to pocket the first part of a massive 23 per cent pay hike in April - despite spin doctored headlines suggesting they have turned down an increase for now.

''We will use every means at our disposal to expose this money for old rope racket being pushed through under the noses of the electorate,'' said Steve Dancey.

''The pay rates of local councillors were already too high and now the whole matter is a complete scandal.''

The local headline news that elected councillors have pigsrejected a 'pay hike proposal' may have impressed some but it has provoked an immediate response from former Warminster councillor Paul Macdonald.
"The gravy train may not be an express service in Wiltshire after this week," said Paul Macdonald. "But it is still a gravy train nonetheless stopping at every top up point that it can."
"But how many councillors are going to show their true support for the local taxpayer and only get on when they really need to?"
Wiltshire Council members who were elected in June are already thousands of pounds in pocket in the midst of the worst recession for decades.
They think they should be praised for rejecting a report that would have given them a massive increase in their allowances.
It would also added pension entitlements for doing what used to be regarded as voluntary service on behalf of the community.
"I have expressed my views very strongly to my local member who sits on the WC," said Paul.
"I told him that I would have proposed an amendment to cut the allowances that they already get to acknowledge the real world."
The current budget to pay councillors for representing their communities would have reached nearly £2 million if the proposals originally tabled had been accepted.
This would have been shared amongst less than one hundred elected members.
They have agreed a new scheme which sees some allowances backdated to June.
The compromise that was reached after highlighted the issue amongst others sees the 23% increase given in instalments over the next three years.
"I am astonished," admits Paul who served the community for four years as a town and district councillor.
"How many of us would like a near 6% pay rise each year. I always did it as a volunteer who kept in touch with public opinion with a little financial help from the ratepayer's purse.
"I wonder what those who help the community for nothing coaching our local football, rugby and cricket youth teams for example would make of this. And those who serve on our town council for nothing."
The independent panel had suggested that councillors should only receive one 'special allowance'. Now they will receive that plus a third of any other they take on.
They are also entitled to take money from any 'outside bodies' they sit on as their electors representatives.
"Who is the guard on this Gravy Train?" added Paul.

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