Councillors are `good value'

SUFFOLK county councillors represent "remarkably good value" for the £750,000 bill which the council tax payer picks up for their allowances and expenses, the deputy leader of the authority insisted yesterday.

By Graham Dines

SUFFOLK county councillors represent "remarkably good value" for the £750,000 bill which the council tax payer picks up for their allowances and expenses, the deputy leader of the authority insisted yesterday.

The council's audited accounts have revealed that a total of £752,046.82 was claimed by the authority's 80 elected members, plus two others who either resigned or died during the 12 months from April 1 2003.

The basic allowance for all councillors in the financial year was £6,609 while special responsibility payments are paid to executive portfolio holders, committee chairman and party leaders.


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Last night Peter Monk, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, which is in joint control of the authority with Labour, defended the council.

He said: "The members of the council work hard and provide remarkably good value for the council tax payer.

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"Our allowances compare well with other county councils."

Mr Monk received £8,811 special responsibility payments in addition to the basic allowance and claimed £6,282.22 in travel and living costs - the first time these figures have been published for some years.

He said: "Accounting rules have changed and we now include subsistence claims.

"Mine are the highest of any Suffolk county councillor because of all the work I do with the Local Government Association and also the North Sea Fisheries Committee."

Council leader Bryony Rudkin received an additional £14,488.42 special responsibility payment.

She was the only member of the council to claim a dependants' carer's allowance of £720 and also claimed £535.22 for travel and subsistence.

Jeremy Pembroke received an additional £7,710 as Conservative opposition group leader, and claimed £1,670.49 travel and living costs.

Elsewhere finance portfolio holder David Rowe (Labour) was paid £8,575.49 responsibility and claimed £1,684.50 for travel.

And Helen Whitworth (Liberal Democrat) received £6,787 for her role as council chairman and claimed £1,823.91 travelling costs.

Basic allowances paid to councillors were £523,801.65 - an increase from last year's figure of £506,955 - while special responsibility allowances rose just over £10,000 to £159,574.51.

For the first time, travel and living expenses have been published and amount to £66,950.66, making a total cost to the council taxpayer of £752,046.82.

Reg Hartles, chairman of PACTS (People Against Council Tax Suffolk), said of the bill for allowances: "It is a hell of a lot of money - I hope they can justify it."

He added: "I don't expect councillors to be out of pocket, but they know how badly hit a lot of people in the county have been by council tax rises and they have to live with that knowledge when they give themselves these expenses.

"Let's hope they can live with their conscience and feel they deserve what they are getting. But I think allowances are too much these days."

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