Tuesday 13 January 2009
Snouts In The Trough
I am grateful to one of my readers who alerted me to a fascinating web site www.whatdotheyknow.com which helps people to submit Freedom of Information requests to any public authority.
In response to a question from a member of the public, Barnet Council published details of councillor expenses for the current financial year 2008/09.
In 2007/08 council leader Mike Freer claimed £47,082. According to the latest figures, Mr Freer’s allowances for the current year 2008/09 are £51,109 - almost £1,000 per week. This is a rise of more than 8.5% - far and away in excess of the rate of inflation.
But in percentage terms, it pales into insignificance when compared to Lynne Hillan (pictured right), who hopes to take over from Freer when he steps down as leader later this year. Her Barnet allowances rose from £30,298 to £34,559 - a thumping increase of more than 14%!
Brian Coleman, no stranger to controversy, saw his Barnet council allowances rise by a modest 1% from £26,498 to £26,771. Deputy Leader Matthew Offord’s increased by 1.4% from £35,998 to £36,506.
Some councillors saw their allowances drop, so it would be unfair to say that all of them are greedy. But councillors must demonstrate to the public precisely what they do for the money. It is not sufficient for them to say “we could earn five times as much in the private sector.” No you couldn’t, otherwise you would be there doing it.
The economy is in terrible shape and we expect our leaders to lead by example and tighten their belts. We will soon know how much councillors propose to pay themselves from March. After the inflation busting increases given to Cllrs Freer and Hillan last year, is it too much to hope they will follow the example of some of their colleagues and take a cut?