Friday, January 11, 2008

What are we worth?

There's quite a debate around the council at present on the subject of the allowances paid to councillors. These are meant to cover us for the time we spend on council duties and activities to make sure that people of all income levels can be elected and it isn't just open to those with well paid jobs who can take a day off when needed for a meeting or those who are retired and have a good pension. For example, in the four days of this week so far I've spent about 25 hours on being a councillor, something I couldn't have done if I'd needed to be at work during the day.
An independent panel is established to look at allowances and the work involved and make a proposal about how much the allowances should be, and they've just reported that Stockton's councillors get less than in any other similar council, in many cases by a large percentage. So now the debate is - should we get a big increase to bring us in line with equivalent authorities or do we soldier on with low allowances and not seem to be greedy? I've known at least 2 people in recent years who've been elected when out of work and then been worse off because their allowance reduced their benefits and they couldn't get a job because they needed time off for meetings. That's not the way to make the council representative of all strands of our borough's population. Or do we try to bring ourselves in line with similar authorities and hope that a wider range of people will be willing to give up the time in the future?
As you can see, it's a big question with no easy answers and whatever we decide will upset some people.

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