Suffolk: Full-time job for Mark Bee at the helm of the county

Mark Bee

Mark Bee - Credit: Ashley Pickering

County leader Mark Bee earns more than £40,000 a year from his council work – but insists it is more than a full-time job.

He sets the strategy for an organisation with a budget approaching £1 billion a year when its education responsibilities are taken into account.

That means he has to work full time in the role – and it is something from which it is impossible to escape . . . except on holiday.

“It’s certainly a full-time commitment when you are council leader. If I’m lucky I can spend one morning a week on other things (he is Conservative agent in Waveney) but it really is all-encompasing.

“Even when you’re not at work you get asked about issues by constituents or other people in Suffolk.

“The other Sunday I was at church going up for communion and someone asked me about parking problems! It really is something you can never get away from.”

Mr Bee said the county, like most districts and boroughs, had its allowances set by an independent panel – and members had not seen any increase in rates for several years.

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“We have taken the view that in the current economic climate, and with staff facing a salary freeze, it would be totally inappropriate to put up our allowances. There has been no change in rates for four years.

“That does mean we are putting off making a decision that will have to be taken at some point in the future – but that is some time off, and will probably be something we have to face when the economy as a whole is looking a bit better.”

Mr Bee accepts that many people see council work as something that is undertaken by enthusiastic amateurs who are fascinated by politics.

However it was necessary compensate councillors who devoted a great deal of time to the work.

“It would be very difficult for people to take on cabinet or executive roles, especially at a county council, if they worked as a full-time employee somewhere. They have to receive some payment for that work,” he added.