The Tory council which last year unveiled plans for an ‘easy council’ model in which residents would be charged extra for services has voted through massive pay increases – doubling the allowances received by cabinet members and increasing the allowances of the council leader by more than 50 per cent. Leader of Barnet council Lynne Hillan will now be able to claim up to £54,000 a year for the role, a rise of nearly £20,000 – on top of a £10,000 basic allowance.
Only one Tory councillor voted against the measures at Hendon town hall last night, Kate Salinger, who has been removed from all her committee posts by the Tory group, and stripped of all her duties. Under the new measures, cabinet allowances are up £17,000 to £34,000, while at the same time, opposition councillors will lose out, gaining minor allowance increases but losing their £500 travel expenses.
One of those to benefit from the doubling in cabinet allowances is Brian Coleman (pictured right), in charge of transport and the environment, who was already in receipt of more than £100,000 of taxpayers’ money.
Coleman is a member of the London Assembly, for which he was last year paid £52,910, and is chairman of the London Fire Board – which recently voted itself a 25 per cent pay rise – and for which Coleman is paid £26,833, all in addition to his wages from the council.
A Standard investigation last year put his total cost to the public purse at £104,503.50. Coleman claimed £2,275 travel expenses for eight months in his role as chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and also ran up a taxi bill of £8,231 in his position as Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, including a £656 bill on one day.
The pay increases come at a time of “austerity” and massive cuts in public services; indeed, only on Monday, local government minister Grant Shapps said:
“It is not justifiable for hikes in councillor allowances when public sector workers are facing a two-year pay freeze. We’re all in this together, and those who hold public office need to lead by example.”
Coleman, however, says:
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“I think residents will be delighted at a sensible scheme within Barnet. The London Councils scheme recognises the work councillors of all parties do. We have to look at allowances every four years and have done what 20 other councils have done…
“The cabinet is getting nothing like its entitled to according to Sir Rodney Brook (report author). I will take the money I’m entitled to. No more, no less.”