County councillor’s bid to halt expenses ‘gravy train’ defeated
AN independent member of Lancashire County Council says fellow councillors should no longer be able to claim travel expenses and meal allowances on top of their basic allowance.
Councillor Paul Greenall, who represents West Lancashire East on the county council, called for the expenses to be scrapped at a full meeting of the authority.
County councillors receive a basic allowance of £10,466 and on top of that can claim 45p per mile for travel to and from County Hall and meal allowances once they arrive.
If they are at County Hall for less than four hours they can claim a £6.62 meal allowance, rising to £13.15 if there for between four and eight hours.
Cllr. Greenall also tried to stop the practice of political group whips and secretaries receiving additional allowances and to reduce the number of councillors receiving ‘special responsibility allowances’ (SRA).
A Freedom of Information request showed 33 out of 84 councillors (39%) receive additional SRA payments. Cllr. Greenall said this compared to Parliament where, since 1979, the figure has never been above 22%.
He said: “County Hall is a gravy train for councillors who want taxpayers to give them more than their generous £10,466 basic allowance. Given that most taxpayers cannot claim for travel and meals when they go to work, why should they fund these benefits for councillors?
“Also, why should taxpayers fund political roles? Shouldn’t these positions be funded by the political parties rather than taxpayers?
“And why should taxpayers’ money be used to fund levels of patronage way above those in Parliament?”
Councillor Greenall’s proposals, which he said would save taxpayers thousands, were rejected by Conservative and Labour members but he vowed not to let the matter rest. He said: “Don’t worry, I’ll be back, next time this item is on the agenda”.
Leader of the council, County Councillor Geoff Driver, responded: “Councillor Greenall demonstrates yet again that he simply doesn't understand that the system of councillors’ allowances is a national scheme and is not determined by Lancashire County Council. He seems determined to seek publicity by making cheap jibes at hard-working county councillors of all political persuasions.
“Instead, he should reflect on the fact that in the county council elections in May last year, he deliberately misled the electors of West Lancashire East by standing and being elected as a Conservative only to declare himself as an ‘independent’ a little over a month after the election. If he had an ounce of integrity, he would resign his seat thus causing a by-election so that the electorate could decide if they really do want to be represented by an ‘independent’.”
The Labour group on Lancashire County Council has been contacted for comment.