County Councillors' expenses slammed as "gravy train for fat cats"

County Coun Paul Greenall puts his amendments during  the County Hall debate
County Coun Paul Greenall puts his amendments during the County Hall debate

Lancashire’s county councillors totted up an expenses and allowances bill of nearly £1.3m in the last financial year.

Now they have been accused of being “fat cats” by an independent councillor who failed to persuade his colleagues to sacrifice some of their claims at a time when the authority is bringing in a 5.99 per cent increase in council tax.

Coun Paul Greenall says councillors should stop all travel and subsistence claims. He also wants to see special political allowances for the whips and secretaries of the Tory and Labour Groups axed.

Finally he wants the number of councillors receiving special allowances to be cut from 39 per cent to 22 per cent.

But his proposals were cold-shouldered when he put them to a full meeting of Lancashire County Council.

Instead, during the council’s annual review of allowances, councillors approved increases linked to the average increase in council workers’ pay and the Consumer Price Index.

Coun Greenall resigned the Tory whip in July last year after claiming colleagues tried to stop him from raising the issue of reducing allowances.

He said: “County Hall is a gravy train for greedy fat cat 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’ money be used for political roles – shouldn’t these positions be funded by the political parties?”

Liberal Democrat group leader Coun David Whipp failed to get support for his proposal to reduce special responsibility payments by 10 per cent. He said: “The bottom line is using our reserves at the rate we are this council will not be able to balance its budget in three years’ time. It’s a modest suggestion how councillors can cut their coat according to their cloth.”

Coun Azhar Ali, leader of the council’s Labour group, said allowances were advised by an independent remuneration panel and Coun Greenall should raise his concerns with that panel.

He added: “I don’t claim subsistence allowances as if I was working somewhere I would expect to pay for my own lunch. I do claim for travel like other councillors Some councillors can travel 60, 50 or 40 miles for meetings.”

No comment was available from council leader and Tory councillor Geoff Driver.

How it all adds up

Total Bill for councillors' allowances 2016/17 amounted to almost £1.3m.

They included:

Mileage allowance : £41,000 plus

Public transport allowances: £3,500

Subsistence allowances: £4,000 plus

Special responsibility allowances: nearly £355,000

ALLOWANCES

Basic allowance received by all councillors: £10,466

Chairman’s allowance - £15,693

Vice Chairman’s allowance - £7,847

Special responsibility allowances:

Council leader County - £29,886

Deputy Leader County- £20,920

Cabinet members (six councillors) - £16,437

Lead members (five councillors) - £8,218

Champions (five councillors) £5,230

Committee Chairs (five councillors) - £7,471

Deputy Committee Chairs (five Councillors) - £3,152

Majority Group group (Conservatives)

Secretary - £4,483

Whip - £4,483

Largest Opposition Group (Labour)

Leader - £16,437

Deputy Leader - £8,218

Secretary - £2,989

Whip - £2,989

Subsistence allowances:

Councilors can claim up to the following amounts if away from home for

a) less than four hours - £6.62

b) between four and eight hours - £13.15

c)Between eight and 12 hours - £26.34

d) More than 12 hours - £39.48

Mileage

Cars and vans: 45p for first 10,000 miles and 25p for above 10,000 miles

Cycles: 20p per mile

Motorcycles: 24p per mile