Jeremy Rowe

Cornwall Councillor for the Parishes of Egloshayle, St Breock, St Ervan, St Eval, St Issey, St Mabyn & St Tudy Learn more

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Cornwall Council Spends Three Hours Discussing Allowances

by Jeremy Rowe on 19 January, 2010

Nothing is more guaranteed to excite discussion among elected representatives than a debate about their own remuneration. Today there was a long and unedifying debate at Cornwall Council about the level of Councillors’ allowances which concluded with the decision that they should remain unchanged.

I voted for a freeze in allowances, as I did in July of last year when a Lib Dem motion to that effect was voted down by the Conservatives. Now it seems, with a General Election looming, they’ve had a change of heart and decided against accepting the recommended increase. That’s all well and good, but they want to “have another look” after the election is out of the way. You can probably guess which way that one’s going to go.

Our position, as laid out in our manifesto for last year’s elections, was that we would vote for a four-year freeze in allowances and we’ve voted that way twice now. Many disagree with that point of view for very honest reasons. My Independent colleague Andrew Wallis makes the point that it’s difficult for a local authority to encourage younger people to give up jobs to serve their community if the allowance doesn’t equate to a decent wage for the job, and I have some sympathy with that. However, we took the view that Cornwall is a low-wage area at the best of times and that Councillors definitely shouldn’t be voting themselves an increase during a recession.

The Conservative position looks a great deal more cynical. Having last year voted against a freeze (the Leader ludicrously claiming that we should wait for the Independent Remuneration Panel to report as it might recommend a reduction) this year, a hundred days away from a General Election, they want to show off their belt-tightening credentials. They’ve still left the door open to make a different decision next year but the election will be out of the way then, won’t it? I wonder what they’ll decide then…

(You can also read my colleague Alex Folkes’ view of the meeting here.)

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