Cornwall Council votes to increase pay 20%
Councillors in Cornwall have called for their numbers to be slashed and pay doubled for those who remain in power.
Yesterday, Cornwall Council voted in favour of bumping up their pay packets by £2,472 a year on top of the current £12,128.
From next May, following council elections councillors will take home £14,600 a year.
At a full council meeting at County Hall, Truro, the 20% pay rise was voted through, saddling the taxpayer with an extra £304,056 a year.
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Councillor Mike Varney said he believed members should work as professional politicians.
He said: "We are all well aware the current £12,128 is simply not enough.
"I think we should get rid of 60 members and pay the rest £35,000 a year so they end up filling their time as a professional councillor."
They also voted in favour of increasing the current 40p a mile in travel expenses to 45p a mile.
The £2,472 increase came following a report by the Independent Remuneration Panel, set up to come up with a figure that would not prevent people on low incomes from standing as councillors.
In particular, younger people and those with families perhaps on low incomes were borne in mind.
Panel members had recommended to the council allowances should rise £4,071 to £16,200 a year, which would have increased the strain on the public purse to half a million pounds.
However, John Pollard, the new cabinet portfolio holder for Localism, Sustainability and Development, put forward a motion calling for the £14,600.
He said the rise reflected previous allowance increases councillors had rejected.
He said: "£14,600 is what new councillors should be getting.
"If we want to attract new, young councillors this is what we should be offering."
After Mr Pollard's amendment was passed the, 42 councillors voted in favour of the extra £2,472.
In the "no" camp, 29 voiced their opposition, while four abstained from voting.
According to the report by the panel, the amount they originally came up with was based on members putting in an average of 25 hours a week on council business.
Councillor Andrew Long said on average he worked 50 hours a week for the electorate.
He said: "That means (on the current rate) I earn £4.61p an hour which I think is illegal.
"Last year I spent £1,750 more than I earned and I can't keep doing that."
Mr Long said if allowances did not increase, only the wealthy would be able to stand for local government.
Councillor Andrew Wallis reminded the chamber it was not voting for itself but for future members.
He said: "There's no guarantee any of us will be here in May.
"I know there are two councillors in this room who are not going to stand again because they can't afford to." Mr Wallis said he struggled himself to work full-time as a councillor.
He added: "Most of the people I talk to in my area say the maximum (allowance) should be £20,000."
Councillor Stuart Cullimore said he could not in all conscience vote in favour of the motion.
He said: "At a time when we are looking at a 30% reduction in housing benefit and our staff face a pay freeze, we cannot award ourselves an increase. I think if you have a passion for politics you will find a way."