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They're all in the money now; Councillors vote for a 20% rise.


COUNCILLORS on the North's largest authority yesterday defended their decision to vote themselves a 20% pay rise.

Not one of Durham County Council's 126 members voted against increasing their basic allowance from pounds 11,079 to pounds 13,300 at a meeting.

A majority of 69 voted to accept the rise while the remainder of those at the meeting - 27 - abstained.

The motion was proposed by council leader Simon Henig, who will see his own special responsibility allowance increase to pounds 36, 575 in addition to his basic pounds 13,300 allowance, bringing his total close to pounds 50,000.

It was seconded by deputy leader Alan Napier, whose pounds 13,300 basic allowance will be supplemented by a special responsibility allowance of pounds 19,950.

The authority's eight remaining Cabinet members will get a pounds 13,300 special responsibility allowance to double their income from their pounds 13,300 basic allowance. All increases will be back-dateto April 1, when the new unitary authority was formed.

But a number of members who are not part of the decision-making Cabinet said they were worse off after the establishment of the unitary authority.

Eddie Murphy from Crook, a former Wear Valley District councillor, said: "For me and for a number of us the gravy train has gone backwards.

"I received a pounds 17,500 allowance as a member for both Wear Valley District Council and the old Durham County Council.

"Following the establishment of a single unitary authority my workload has increased but my allowance has gone down to pounds 13,300."

Taxpayers' Alliance campaign manager Susie Squire said: "It's totally unac-ceptablfor councillors to be voting themselves such a massive increase in their allowances, particularly at a time when taxpayers who pay the bills are struggling to make ends meet.

"They should remember that their's is ultimately a position of public service, not personal enrichment."

The increases were agreed by an independent panel including Lady Ann Calman, chair of NHS County Durham, John Cuthbert, managing director of Northumbrian Water, and Prof Ray Hudson, pro vice-chancellor at Durham University. County treasurer Stuart Crowe said: "In reaching this decision, the panel gathered evidence from a range of councils, from meetings with elected members and reviewing the expected range of responsibilities for members."

He said the panel felt strongly that it would be difficult to ignore the wider economic climate and general heightened awareness of allowances paid to those holding public office but recognised the responsibility and roles undertaken by members of the new council.

"The new allowances were considered against other comparable authorities which identified a range of allowances up to pounds 15,816 per annum,'' he said.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 30, 2009
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