ALLOWANCES: Councillors did a u-turn on rises

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I have to agree with Gary Legg of UKIP’s comments about councillor pay increases (News Guardian, February 11).

These increases were approved only because the ruling Labour party used its majority on the council to vote them through.

Mr Legg is correct when he says the council was not obliged to accept the recommendation of the independent remuneration panel that allowances should be increased.

Labour excuses for the increase was that it was necessary in order to attract the right calibre of candidate.

However, there is no shortage of well-qualified people from all parties willing to put themselves forward, so that particular justification does not stand up.

The pay award was one of the most contentious issues of the 2015 local elections.

The council’s decision to increase allowances even attracted a rebuke from Eric Pickles, then secretary of state for local government.

I was a member of the council at the time and I refused to accept the increase. I knew that many of my constituents were living on reduced incomes and were struggling financially, the effects of austerity were having a profound impact and it was difficult to overlook the large numbers of people needing to use food banks.

I assumed that other Conservative councillors would similarly waive their right to receive the increase, especially as they had voted against it and had vehemently opposed it in the local elections.

However, two Conservative councillors decided to accept the increase. This revelation is made in the council minutes of September 24, and available to view on the council website.

One of the councillors who accepted the increase is standing for re-election in Monkseaton North in May.

Whilst I do not agree with the politics of UKIP, Mr Legg is at least showing leadership in ensuring his candidates pledged to reject the pay increase and is also demonstrating that his party has some integrity regarding the use of taxpayers’ hard-earned cash.

Jean McLaughlin

Tynemouth