Tory defends allowances rise
A SENIOR Tory with more than 40 years' public service last night defended proposals to increase his council allowances by 36%. Joe Pike, deputy Tory leader on Essex County Council, is set to receive an annual allowance of £24,119 to reflect what his boss, Lord Hanningfield, described as his "senior statesmen" status.
A SENIOR Tory with more than 40 years' public service last night defended proposals to increase his council allowances by 36%.
Joe Pike, deputy Tory leader on Essex County Council, is set to receive an annual allowance of £24,119 to reflect what his boss, Lord Hanningfield, described as his "senior statesmen" status.
The Halstead councillor and retired licensee currently receives £8,900 as his basic allowance, plus the same again for chairing the mid-Essex area forum – taking his total to £17,800.
But now Lord Hanningfield, leader of the council, wants to award his party deputy another £6,319 because he feels his workload justifies it.
The move has been agreed by the Members' Allowance Independent Panel, but caused concern among opposition leaders at County Hall – Lib Dem leader Ken Jones and Labour leader Paul Sztumpf.
Both said they would question it when the full council meets on Tuesday.
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In particular, the official opposition Labour group, whose own deputy leader receives £7,360 on top of his basic allowance, said it would be discussing why Lord Hanningfield needed two number-twos: £29,150-a-year Peter Martin, the deputy leader of the council who is not deputy of the party.
Those duties are fulfilled by Mr Pike, who has a distinguished record of public service having served on councils in Essex since 1962, including a stint as chairman of Essex County Council two years ago.
Yesterday, he said he had just taken on major new responsibilities - he is now chairman of the first Children's Trust in Essex, which has been established under close Government supervision as a direct result of the damning Climbie report into social service childcare in the England.
He said: "This is a major project with an enormous amount of extra and important work co-ordinating activities.
"If the council grants this award, I'll be getting it because I have these new responsibilities, which are additional to the normal duties of the deputy leader."
Asked to describe his working day yesterday, he said: "Today's a relatively quiet one – I'm working from home checking and responding to emails from officers and councillors all morning.
"And this afternoon, I've got to go to County Hall for meetings with officers about the Children's Trust."
He added that on Wednesday this week, left home at 8am and only returned at 10pm having spent the whole day on council business.
But another retired pensioner, Tony Constable, who has been campaigning in Colchester against massive council tax hikes, said: "I hope this is not a case of councillors getting their noses further into the trough.
"It seems to me that it would perhaps be more acceptable to have maybe one off payments to remunerate Mr Pike for his extra work rather than an ongoing yearly allowance."
Last night, Lord Hanningfield said: "I don't think people realise how big a job helping to run the county is - Peter Martin's role is the executive deputy whereas Joe has completely different duties and both are needed.
He added: "Joe is also the main contact within the group for pastoral help and advice, bringing his experience and political acumen to bear as 'senior statesman'."