Row over political support jobs

A WAR of words broke out between senior Suffolk county councillors last night over plans to recruit two research assistants at a cost of about £50,000 as the authority faces a predicted £17million funding shortfall.

A WAR of words broke out between senior Suffolk county councillors last night over plans to recruit two research assistants at a cost of about £50,000 as the authority faces a predicted £17million funding shortfall.

The political research assistants posts, each with offering a salary of up to £24,000, have been advertised in the same week that the council warned of possible redundancies as a result of the feared gulf in Government funding.

And, speaking to the EADT last night, Conservative council leader Jeremy Pembroke and council tax campaigner Reg Hartles both raised concerns about the costs of the jobs and the timing of the adverts.

But the leaders of the parties who will benefit from the posts, the Labour and the Liberal Democrat and Independent groups, defended the decision.


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According to the adverts, the positions, neither of which is new, will involve research, preparing briefings and reports and general administrative duties.

Mr Pembroke said both groups are entitled to hire a research assistant and stressed the administration had no powers to prevent it.

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But he said: “Our political research assistant left and we took a decision not to replace him because we thought it not appropriate to go and get someone at that reasonably high salary.

“We have taken on an admin assistant on a temporary basis at a greatly reduced cost. I just think that during this difficult test this is not the appropriate time to do this sort of thing.”

And Mr Hartles, chairman of campaign group PACTS (Protest Against Council Taxes Suffolk) added: “We'll be keeping an eye on job adverts and seeing if they can justify replacing those posts.

“I feel very strongly about some of these jobs being advertised at high salaries when often I think they are cushy little clerical jobs and not important at all.

“The positions have got to be vetted very carefully and the need to re-appoint should also be looked at very closely.”

However, Bryony Rudkin, Labour leader, said: “It's an important support to councillors and politicians to do their work and we haven't been asked not to fill the post.

“It's very helpful to councillors and we've had them for several years now - they help the council run efficiently.

“I would defend the post but it isn't my decision because I don't run the council. If the administration wanted to talk to me about it then it wouldn't be a problem.”

Kathy Pollard, Lib Dem leader, said they had waited six months for the job advert to go in - and stressed the posts had been approved after a stringent job review.

She added: “Whilst we understand the difficulties that there are with the budget, at the same time, as a responsible opposition, we have to ensure that consultation is being done and that we continue to observe what's going on.

“At the moment we can't do that - we can't keep an eye on what's going on with the council. I think the public would expect us to make sure that things aren't slipping through the net.

“This is being used by the Conservatives. They have approved it so I think it would be a bit hypocritical of them to say that we shouldn't be advertising at this point.

“It's a vital post for us. We've already saved £10,000 this year because we haven't had anyone in post but I'll certainly talk to my group about it and see how they feel.”

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