Letter: 7 July 2010

Councillors in need of justifiable credit

In the Yourmedway edition June 23, I responded to a letter from a man called Ted.

He complained that two new MPs were remaining on Medway Council and that receiving two sets of allowances was “contemptuous”.

Conveniently, the two MPs he refers to are newly-elected Conservative MPs Rehman Chishti and Mark Reckless.

I pointed out that, in fact, the only contemptuous MP who needs to explain himself is Bill Esterson, as his new job in Sefton Central takes him more than 200 miles from his constituents (and listed home address) in River ward.

That said, I do not wish this article to discuss that point further. Instead, I, as the individual who prompted Medway Council to (finally) publish the allowances for 2009/10, would like to briefly muse over the allowances system afforded to councillors, and explain why £760,000 is value for money, unlike the inference made by certain local bloggers.

In 2009/10, Cllr Reckless received in total £9,025.20. That was the basic allowance afforded to councillors – he did not claim for travel and subsistence, nor did he have a special responsibility worth extra money.

Despite moving (temporarily) to Sefton after being selected to fight the general election and dealing with constituents via email, Cllr Esterson accepted £14,755 – the basic allowance, £49.60 for travel and subsistence, and £5,680.20 for his special responsibility.

Portfolio Holder Cllr Chishti received £20,385.60 – the basic allowance plus £11,360.40 for his special responsibility.

Let us remember, though, that there are 55 councillors, taking each a proportion of the £760,000 paid to them based on their needs and requests. That makes an average of just £13,818.18 per member – and, let’s face it, if most of us had achoice, we wouldn’t get out of bed for that.

Let us also remember that councillors are not entitled to salaries, and that allowances are received in order to recompense members for their time and resources used in helping and representing their constituents.

While certain bloggers have criticised payments made to members, I would instead like to pay tribute to the immense amount of time and effort employed by members of all parties in working hard for their constituents.

Never [sic] hsa the phrase ‘it’s not easy’ rung truer than when describing the role of local councillor – and whether you agree with the decisions taken and opinions expressed or not, the energy with which they go about their work for next-to-nothing should be respected.

Councillors don’t perform miracles, they can’t make big changes to your lives. But your local councillor can help you with the local problems that council officers ‘forget’ you informed them of. And as we are often reminded, it’s the little things that make a big difference. Now, how can you cap a price on that?

Alan Collins, by email

Leave a Reply