Allowance hike for members of Norfolk County Council branded ‘obscene’

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Campaigners and voters have united in condemnation of Norfolk County Council plans to raise members’ allowances by more than 10 per cent.

One councillor says he wants to use some of his extra payment to establish a community fund in his area.

But thousands have already signed an online petition against the measure which Lynn News readers called “disgusting” and “outrageous.”

The plans, which will cost more than £140,000, will see members’ basic allowances raised from £9,401 per year to £10,500 - a rise of around 10.5 per cent, which is also being backdated to May.

The amount paid to leader Cliff Jordan is rising even more, by around 13 per cent, to over £31,500.

The proposal was mostly supported by members of Mr Jordan’s ruling Conservative group and opposed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

One of those to back it was Swaffham councillor Ed Colman, who told its town council meeting on Monday that he wanted to use some of his increased payment to establish a community fund for organisations to bid for contributions towards events they hold.

He said: “There’s no obligation but I feel it would be nice to do something with it.”

Conservative chiefs insisted the money for the rise being drawn from an underspend in the existing allowance budget.

During Monday’s meeting, deputy leader Alison Thomas said: “We have to ask ourselves is it reasonable that Norfolk is behind all its neighbouring authorities and will continue to remain behind unless we right the wrong.”

But despite Mr Colman, and others, suggesting they would give some or all of the rise away, there was little sympathy from Lynn News readers who got in touch after we reported the vote in Tuesday’s edition.

Michael Hankinson wrote on Facebook: “Outrageous - one rule for the peasants like us and another for our so-called ‘masters’.”

Tobias Palfrey called it “disgusting”, while Mary Key asked why the rise was not kept in line with that given to staff who she said did “the real work.”

The anger has been fuelled by the fact that the vote came at a time when the council is consulting on plans to raise council tax by nearly five per cent next year and says it needs to save £125 million from its budgets over the next four years.

The decision was also preceded by the defeat of several motions calling for front-line services, such as children’s centres which opponents say are at risk of closure because of plans to halve the amount of money allocated to them from £10 million to £5 million, to be protected.

A petition demanding the retention of children’s centres, which was said to have around 6,000 signatures – several times the number of responses to the council’s official budget consultation – was handed in.

Labour leader Steve Morphew, who called the increase “dirty money” during Monday’s meeting, has now set up an online petition, via the change.org website, calling for it to be reversed. More than 4,000 people have so far signed it.

North West Norfolk Labour secretary Jo Rust added: “It’s obscene that they get to vote themselves a pay rise while other people are told to cut their costs to make ends meet.”