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Local Volunteers Set Up Alternative Panel to Discuss Councillors' Allowances and Expenses

We were pleased to hear that volunteers have set up the Shadow Independent Remuneration Panel for East Herts. The group aims to discuss a fair rate of allowances and expenses for elected members.

The MPs' expenses scandal has greatly damaged the reputation of politicians across the UK and also caused a lack of trust in our local councillors. Whilst canvassing for previous elections, local residents told us that they believed that councillors were just as bad as MPs and also had their hands in the till. It's sad to hear voters having so little faith in their elected representatives. Hopefully this new group will bring some needed transparency to local government and trust in local politics.

The Official Independent Remuneration Panel will deliberate Councillors' allowances and expenses at East Herts Council. It is disappointing that the Conservative majority in East Herts Council decided to appoint a single candidate; more members would have surely increased scrutiny and debate.

We applaud Cllr Nigel Clark for his suggestion of the Shadow Remuneration Panel, but we are unsurprised that it was an Independent Councillor who made the proposal as the Conservative majority appears determined to adhere to the status quo. It was only a few months ago that Cllr Tindale attempted to impose a limit on questions asked by the Independent Councillors, Deborah and Nigel Clark, in Council meetings. It is clear that we need more Independent Councillors that are ready to scrutinize council policy without party bias.

Councillors in East Herts District Council can currently claim a basic allowance of £5,404.56 and an extra allowance if they have a special responsibility and  also travel/subsistence expenses. In the financial year of 2008/2009, taxpayers spent £463,033 on East Herts District Councillors' allowances and expenses.

The basic allowance for East Herts District Councillors is well above average. The Local Government Association's (LGA) Members' Allowance Survey in 2008 states that Councillors in Shire District Councils averaged a basic allowance of £4,194. The allowance is adjusted to the cost of living in an area and therefore the East of England's average basic allowance for a District Councillor is £4,505 . East Herts District Councillors still receive a much higher basic allowance than the regional average and their UK counterparts.

We hope that the new Shadow Independent Remuneration Panel will be able to fully scrutinise Councillors' allowance and expenses. Allowances and expenses exist to ensure that Councillors are not out of pocket as a result of their elected duties, but we also need to ensure that the rates are fair and justifiable.

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