Councillors vote against public’s view and agree to boost their own allowances

editorial image

More than 90% believe councillors should not have opted for a rise in their cash allowances.

In a vote cast by readers, 92% of the 611 people who had their say believe South Tyneside Council members should not have given themselves an increase in their payments when it is £542million in debt.

Coun Lee Hughes

Coun Lee Hughes

But at a meeting of the council at Jarrow Town Hall tonight, the full council accepted a proposal to up the amount by 1% without debate.

The borough’s mayor, Councillor Alan Smith, said the recommendation to accept the rise was unanimously accepted.

However, Councillor Lee Hughes, who represents the Bede Ward for Putting People First, told the Gazette he had voted against the proposal, but it was not noted.

He was challenged by leader Iain Malcolm to contact the finance department to say he would not accept the additional funds.

It was agreed, but I feel really disappointed no discussion took place and I know there was a Labour member who wanted to speak out and they didn’t.

Councillor Lee Hughes

Coun Hughes has said he will do so and plans to donate the money to borough charities.

After Ed Malcolm, leader member for resources and innovation, outlined the figures and the vote was taken, leader Iain Malcolm slammed critics and said the authority was following the law, keeping councillors’ allowances in line with the figure awarded to its staff.

He told the meeting he understood it was not popular to discuss payments to public servants, but the council was legally obliged to discuss it and would come under fire from Government agencies if it failed to do so.

He also hit out at the Tax Payers’ Alliance, which had criticised the move, as an organisation which did not back services such as Sure Start centres or the welfare state.

He added “debt is not a bad thing” but is a sign the council has invested in schools and housing, with the cash to be paid back in either Government payments.

He said: “This is a very modest increase, the first increase since 2009, and has been recommended by an independent panel in keeping with what our hard working staff have received as well.”

Councillor Hughes plans to gift his backdated rise from April to Art for Wellbeing and next year’s to Cancer Connections.

He said: “It was agreed, but I feel really disappointed no discussion took place and I know there was a Labour member who wanted to speak out and they didn’t.”

He had expressed concerns the rise would happen in a time when jobs have been lost and services cut due to the financial crisis.