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20,000 pounds for the likes of Victoria and Warwick. Oh my God.

What's the problem with councillors using money they have been lawfully paid by a public authority for whatever purpose they like? Would you object if they all spent it on their children's holidays?

If they choose to spend it on politics, so be it. Are you telling us Tory MPs don't ever spend any part of their salary on campaigning?

The money is no more "taxpayers money" than what David Cameron uses to buy milk with - once the salary has been paid it stops being taxpayers' money and becomes the recipients money.

You can do better than this. Try harder.

What's the problem with councillors using money they have been lawfully paid by a public authority for whatever purpose they like?


The money is extracted by the political party as a condition of membership. It is interference in the democratic process by introducing non-statutory taxation and providing non-statutory public funding of political parties.

Councils are intra-vires bodies and this little piece of fraud may well require a trip through The High Court

Better to pay them more instead I reckon, might help attract better people for the job.

Very, very few people know who their councillors are. We should have directly-elected mayors wherever possible. They should be paid a proper salary and hopefully we'll start to attract high quality people.

Interestingly enough the figures you have brought up don't ring any bells with me. In hastings the average basic salary for a councillor is about £5000 a year you then recieve special responcibilty allowances for being on different commitees e.g plannng or cabinet. cabinet gives you about an extra £1000 a year. Those on cabinet and the leader probably distort our figures bacause they are on more. I would not begrudge any of them that money though because it becomes a full time job once you area lead member or leader and whilst i am sure that all councillors (on or side at least) do it for the local community they still have mortgages or rent to pay and still need to live.

Sadly without the allowances you would have local councils which were made up of the rich and retired not something that is likley to reach out to local communties. In hastings we have councillors as young as 28 right through to mid 40s and 50s and then councillors in there 60s as well many of us younger ones could not do the job if we did not have the allowance.

So GLA members get as much as MPs?

Again, MPs' salaries need bringing into line with other public servants.

Lophocolea:What's the problem with councillors using money they have been lawfully paid by a public authority for whatever purpose they like? Would you object if they all spent it on their children's holidays?

I think you're missing the subtlety. Let's say you're a political party called, oh, I don't know, the Diberal Lemoncrats and you have a national policy that all your councillors pay a certain proportion of their allowances into a campaigning pot. Let's say you take control of a London borough called, oh let's make one up, Dismalington. So you ramp up your councillors' allowances to give yourself a larger allowance which takes into account this policy and - hey presto! - you're getting the council taxpayer to fund your next round of Hocus Pocus Focus leaflets.

Councils have discretion to set allowances which are supposed to represent the time they spend serving their communities. They do not have the power to take into account party commitments - in effect, this is being used to pillage the taxpayer.

20k for Kent on average? I wonder which areas are much higher than that.At Thanet District Council the basic allowance isnt much over 4k.

As for the debate over the use of Councillors allowances to fund political parties. I refer you to Francis Maude on Tory Radio where he said there isnt anything wrong with it. This was Challenge the Chairman at Nottingham. I asked the question. I think hes a complete idiot for his answer to the question, but credit to him for saying his mind...

Id like the point out that the use of Councillors Allowances is to support the said Councillors in doing their job. For example meeting administrative costs, and to comunicate with residents in their wards. A Councillor is actually a voluntary role and the Allowance is NOT a salary, not in its formal sense at least. Its an allowance in order to meet the financial costs of being a Councillor. If local political parties are asking for donations to meet the running costs of the said party, then it should be from your own pocket and not that of the taxpayer.

If you want to attract the best calibre of councillors, especially younger people, you have got to pay a decent amount.

What has been shocking is the fact that before the new Council Cabinet system was introduced in 2001, the average allowance was c£3,000 now it is £9,300.

Yet, councillors have no more responsibility now then they did before 2001. Cabinet members used to be Chariman of committeees with the same responsibility.

Many councillors now live off this money and are desperate to remain a councillor or get elected in the first place for the money. Older councillors won't retire becuase they need the money to supplement their pension and some middle-aged people want to get on so they can use the money to pay their mortgage or school fees.

It's real snouts in the trough stuff because the money comes first, the electorate second.

This is a very interesting piece of research and just the sort of thing the conservative meovement should be doing all the time. Congratulations to the TPA & Isitfair. My one grouse is that this could have had more local impact if produced earlier in the campaign.

William Norton's point about the potential for abuse is very well-made.

One observation. There is a significant difference between County and District councils - it would be interesting to know the average allowance for councillors in each of the various different categories and tiers of local government rather than lumping them all in together.

Also - are these allowances taxable? My assumption is that they are not, but it would be good to know.

I don't understand the argument that paying people more will attract a better quality councillor. It certainly hasn't worked with MPs.
Personally I believe that if people are standing simply for the money they shouldn't be doing the job.

It is slightly misleading to argue expenses were introduced in 1998, what happened before is that councillors simply claimed expenses for attending meetings, travel etc. The introduction of the basic allowance simplified a rather complicated and bureaucratic process.

My own view is that Councillors allowances should rise by no greater than the rate of inflation and that when it comes to the payment of special responsibility allowances they should only be paid where a real special responsibility exists. When I was elected as a councillor the then labour administration in bexley was paying all but one of its entire group a special responsibility allowance. When the conservatives took control action was immediatly taken to scrap a number of these allowances.

Yes, the allowances are taxable, although expenses are not, provided they are within HMRC limits. In rural areas, expenses for travelling can exceed the allowance by some margin.

In Huntingdonshire, where I am a Councillor, our allowances are probably averaging in the £5/6k range. We commission an independent committee to recommend allowances. We are not duty bound to accept their recommendations, although the only occaisions we have not done so resulted in reductions to the cost to the public.

This whole area is one that I think that requires more investigation. Allowances should be recommended by an independent body. And political parties need to ensure that selection for Council seats remains open, fair and democratic - because these days, as the report highlights, there are significant financial implications to being 'de-selected'.

If you want to attract the best calibre of councillors, especially younger people, you have got to pay a decent amount.

Why have Councillors at all ? We pay the Officers and Staff - why not simply elect the Directors of each Department and the Chief Constable. Why do we need Councillors ?

The argument used on pay is the one that has made British industry so much superior to Japanese and German industry; since salaries at board level are higher in Britain than Germany or Japan you can see how British cars have flooded German and Japanese roads and driven BMW and Mercedes and VW and Toyota to oblivion

GLA members are not councillors, so the average is less than £9,300.

Tom Tom- we need councillors because councils need political leadership not simply administrators. There is nothing worse than a council where its members simply follow their officers advice without question. It's like saying lets abolish ministers and leave all the decisions to the permanent under sectretaries.

I agree it seems odd to include GLA members in those stats, the GLA is certainly not a council but a regional assembly.

"Allowances were justifiable recompense for hours spent in Council committee meetings" So what is the typical hourly rate? Does anybody know?

"Very, very few people know who their councillors are. We should have directly-elected mayors wherever possible. They should be paid a proper salary and hopefully we'll start to attract high quality people."

Because it's worked so well in London. Everybody knows the name of the high quality incumbent, who has contrived to use public money to promote himself
and entrench his position to such an extent that now he's virtually irremovable.

Graham D'Admiral hits the nail on the head. Milton Keynes Lib/Demoprats (currently NOC) just danced to the tune of the officers or government when they ran the council, voting us down at every turn. They are a disaster. They take the view that they impose the council's will on the people. Conservatives, on the other hand, represent the people to the council, so a good Conservative council is needed to keep a tight lid on 'Sir Humphrey'.

As far as allowances go, I am strongly NOT in favour of large allowances because then you become a professional councillor, part of the Establishment. On the other hand, and speaking as a councillor, the financial penalties (being a councillor costs at least £10k a year over and above the allowance, which is taxed, BTW) are onerous.

Councillors need to have independence from the system to do their job well, and, don't forget, discharge their Party Political duties too,(committees, canvassing at this time of year and for GE as well as going on walkabouts the rest of the year), as well as avoiding the clutches of the bailiff.

I agree that the GLA should not be included here - it is a salaried position more or less incompatible, I believe, with any other salaried job. It may or may not be overpaid but it is a different issue.

The point William Norton makes on a Borough that sounds like Islington is a very good one. I do not see why this indirect funding of political parties, if it is a condition of being selected, should not be exposed. Cash for Council seats?

However, my greatest concern is what Kensington & Chelsea is doing up there? In the 1980s when I lived there, and there were modest attendance allowances in operation, about two thirds of the Tory Group never claimed a penny, and most of the others claimed much less than they were entitled - effectively just covering indirect expenses that could not be claimed. They got very good young Councillors on this basis. It is not money which puts young Councillors off but the time during the working day.

Now I know that the highly damaging "Cabinet" system will have boosted the figures, but if the average is £20,000, then the backbench RBK&C Councillor cannot be claiming less than £10,000 to £15,000 - or they are paying their senior Councillors more than MPs. What on earth has happened to the Royal Borough's public service ethos? Remember too that it serves one of the smallest populations in London, has one of the smallest proportions of social housing, smallest proportion of local children in State schools etc.

Can someone from the Borough kindly enlighten us and/or defend themselves? Warwick Lightfoot and Victoria Borwick (surely she doesn't claim a four figure sum, I cannot believe it?) might like to give an account of what they have claimed and how compatible it is with the fine traditions of their predecessors.

As someone who is standing as a first time councillor Don, I'm interested to know why you think 'being a councillor costs at least 10k a year'?

There is nothing worse than a council where its members simply follow their officers advice without question

Well some of us live under such a regime

I might not be so bothered about increased allowances if local councillors reflected local opinion. Some arrogant clown in my area (sadly I think he's a Tory) said that "councillors shouldn't just be the mouthpiece of their voters" or words to that effect. He was responding to the fact that the council was making unpopular decisions over planning and redevelopment. We just wanted something more small-scale that didn't undermine the character of the town but for some reason this view was deemed fit to be ignored. That said the majority of Tories were against the demented scheme and hopefully will put a stop to it after Thursday should they win.

Blimey, I must have been a councillor in the wrong town! I got about 30 quid a quarter to cover phone bills - what a laugh.

There's some sort of ratchet effect going on isn't there. You start with something that sounds defensible - "we want to attract high quality candidates" - hence increased allowances -- and you end up creating a career for people, which is the opposite of what a local councillor is supposed to be getting out of it. You have to remain in the community you're trying to serve - that's the whole point - so you should reclaim only expenses afterwards, not get an average-salary type allowance beforehand.

The points by Justin and others about the misleading inclusion of the GLA here are well made. But then "statistical rigour" and "ConservativeHome" are not close bedfellows.

Justin is correct to say that the GLA should not be included in this list. We are not councillors, and that is official, as we are ineligible to join the Conservative Councillor's Association. A more realistic comparator would be members of the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament.

Also bizarre to claim the GLA is Conservative controlled. The only special allowance is paid to the member who is Deputy Mayor - appointed by Livingstone, without reference to the Assembly.

So you would argue that because some councillors are simply servants of the officers we shouldn't pay any of them? Logic like this will result in roughly equal councillor quality levels across the country... they will all become as useless as the lowest common denominator.

o you would argue that because some councillors are simply servants of the officers we shouldn't pay any of them?

No I said we don't need them. We should elect the Chief Executive and all Directors in the Machine; we should directly elect Police Authorities, School Boards, Hospital Boards, Burial Boards, Highways Commissions etc.

The Victorians elected Councillors but also Burial Boards and Schools Boards - we just get to put one cross in one box for one party to tell us to get lost while they and the Officers run a sham democracy

Chris are you saying that all the councillors pre the 1990's were useless? They had far more power then but I don't think there is any evidence whatsoever that the improved expenses payments have justified themselves.

Grame, where were you a councillor?

Grame, where were you a councillor?

Excluding the GLA, the average councillor received £9,208 in 2005-06. (Including the GLA the average is £9,283). The GLA is a body that did not exist 10 years ago, and therefore did not cost the taxpayer a penny.

The key question is whether we get value for money from the people we elect to serve us. Publishing this data allows people to make up their own minds.

No wonder there are so many rows in Associations these days over selection. Nationwide. there seems to have been a cluster of expulsions from the party over this matter.

The National rules should be re-written so that Councillors are no longer on Association Executive Committee's in their own right. Bearing in mind, in the event of disputes over selection, the Executive has the final say and Councillors (even if they're not up for selection)have a clear finanical interest in any decisions the Secutive will make on this matter even if it is not in the year they are up for re-selection. Indeed it can be argued that the wife/husband/civic partner/close relative also have a finanical interest and should also be prohibited from participation

In my own (Labour controlled) area, all bar 4 of the 30+ Labour councillors receive 'special responsibility allowances' of between £3k and £18k on top of a basic allowance of £7k, for either Exec positions, chairmanships or vice chairmanships.

Around £600k every year is paid to councillors, equivalent to 2% on coucnil tax every year.

It's ludicrous waste.

The problem is that we have a half-way house - neither voluntary (just covering expenses) nor properly compensated (as paid work).

The allowances aren't high enough to compensate for loss of earnings so they wont attract those good candidates who might do it for the money (although I don't believe in professional politicians anyway).

But the allowances are high enough to encourage poor candidates to stick around. It's nice easy pocket money - you can get away with doing very little and it tops up the pension nicely. Unfortunately local associations seem happy to allow sitting candidates to stay on, whether or not they are contributing.

I agree with malcolm - if people are standing simply for the money they shouldn't be doing the job.

Councillors should have their costs reimbursed so they are not out of pocket, but their compensation should come from job satisfaction and being able to "make a difference".

The fundamental question should be, do the taxpayers get value for money?

No response yet to my challenge to our Councillors in Kensington & Chelsea (see 10:59 above). I do hope they will come and try to defend themselves. Or is there no viable defence?

They're all busy looking for a Parliamentry seats after being put on the A list Londoner (bit naughty that comment)

Justin: Harlow

Perhaps we should just abolish democracy. Cheaper.

Jonathan @ 1009 - thank you & good luck in Huntingdonshire

I can never understand this argument within our party that we should somehow expect our Councillors to work for nothing, or we are proud when we have councils whose allowance are tiny. And the argument is no different for MPs/GLA members, it's just the amount that varies.

Personally I would rather see the two tier systems merged into Unitaries wherever possible (the two-tier leads to a democratic defecit; most don't understand what they do) and then the Councillors running that paid something approaching a reasonable salary.

Paying a salary or allowance does not guarantee you get a good Councillor. Unfortunately the vagaries of living in a democracy means that sometimes quite imcompetent people get elected. Then if anybody really cares, they get voted out again. Fortunately for the most part people do care.

Paying for your Councillors does mean you get a wider potential pool of candidates for consideration, and that can only be a good thing. Everybody has to live and some Councils require time during the day. For anyone who works, getting the time off is tricky. But if you can, it is unlikely to be paid by your employer.

There are many places where elections are uncontested, but I'm not aware there are any Councils (other than parish level) where the balance of power is held by uncontested candidates, but I bet some are close. Is that healthy?

My wife's grandad didn't get a vote in anything until he was 40, just after the WW-II, because round here even the MP was uncontested.

Even when only evening work is required, you are unlikely to find enough people these days willing enough to give up their evenings etc. Add to that the red tape, regulation and paperwork that has now made the job quite demanding; it is no longer a couple of hours a week.

However paying Councillors is just one aspect of trying to widen the pool of candidates. Ruth Kelly to her credit has launched a Councillors commission to look at exactly this. However after sending them an E-mail, I am yet to receive a reply after about two weeks.

On the two substantive issues of amounts and political donations, (at the risk of sounding like a bureaucracy-building Liberal) you could have recommendations of allowances area by area, Councils could vote to deviate from that, up or down. WRT to the political donation, once you pay someone they can use it for what they want, unlucky.

I would heartily agree with the comment about Councillors being on executives etc. It seems to be the convention in our area if a sitting Councillors wishes to continue in the job, they get it. There is no objective assessment of how well they are doing at that job by their party.

My allowance is deducted from benefits I was receiving, treated as a wage or income so I do not actually earn any money being a councillor!This means it does not encourage people to think about democracy but more of what they will lose not gain in their pocket.

However paying Councillors is just one aspect of trying to widen the pool of candidates. Ruth Kelly to her credit has launched a Councillors commission to look at exactly this

No it is not. Her remit is to entice more women and ethnic candidates to be Councillors....not to encourage more participation. It is the old game of finding a group to patronise and sponsor.

I know of a Council Ward where 4 candidates were called Hussain, and of 10 candidates the only European name was Ukrainian and the non-Muslim residents felt they had a very limited choice to represent them

I hope you have all sent in your Brown Envelopes complaining about your Council Tax. See http://www.isitfair.co.uk/ If not you had better be quick, they are collecting them very soon.

Still no answer from Kensington & Chelsea!

Kensington & Chelsea Conservative Councillors are a disgrace. I cannot believe that none of them have read this thread, or at least been told about it by someone who does. If you know any of them, tell them.

I am a little ashamed that I was once a member of the Party there.

There MAY be some startling explanation as to why one of the smallest population Boroughs in the country, with some of the least cash strapped Councillors, think it appropriate to stick their hands in the public purse to the extent that they do, reversing totally the completely opposite tradition of a few years ago. If so, let's hear it.

High pay doesn't get better candidates. I'd say the opposite, -- it attracts freeloaders who are smart at getting elected. Some of our councillors are certainly committed and work hard, but their pay is not related to this. Paid or not, you'll always get lazy councillors, or ones who are building their political careers or furthering other aims. But before the role was paid, it didn't attract people who were just after easy money.

Basic pay for our 60 councillors in Waltham Forest is £10,000 a year, with 29 of them getting large extra allowances for being on committees etc. Total allowance bill is now £900,000 a year; meanwhile they're closing libraries, reducing museum and gallery to part-time opening, cutting evening classes, selling historic buildings left to the people, etc etc etc, cut cut cut.

Some don't even turn up to their own surgery meetings or answer letters, but their big local power base keeps their snouts safely in the trough. It's a Labour-led coalition, and I'm a lifelong socialist, but this isn't Labour politics. It disgusts me.

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