It would not be an exaggeration to say that public confidence in politicians is at an all time low. The continuing revelations about MPs expenses is damaging the very fabric of our democracy.
But MPs do not have a monopoly for claiming excessive allowances and regular readers will know that Not The Barnet Times has highlighted numerous instances where senior Conservative councillors have received substantial payments for, frankly, not very much in return.
At the annual meeting of the council on Tuesday, Labour councillor Geof Cooke sought the necessary constitutional permission to move a motion on allowances which was not on the agenda. Unfortunately, a majority of councillors voted not to allow him to do so. This was his motion:
“Council notes the damage that has been caused to the political system by the parliamentary expenses saga in this country.
Council believes that, in the light of this crisis, members of this council should set an example and so Council resolves that the Independent Panel should be convened as soon as possible to consider a cap on overall councillors’ allowances, including the re-introduction of the cap on individuals claiming multiple Special Responsibility Allowances.
Council also asks Cabinet to lobby government for a change in the law to allow members' allowances in local government to be set by an Independent Panel, so that politicians are not deciding their own remuneration.”
Mike Freer, leader of the council, has said that the new Mayor of Barnet, Brian Coleman, will give the opposition parties “a fair crack of the whip.”
He could demonstrate this by ensuring that Cllr Cooke’s motion is the first item on the agenda at the next council meeting.