I mentioned in a blog post yesterday that I do believe that on the whole councillors in Southend have honest intentions and try to do their best for the town and the residents that they represent. I fully support complete transparency on allowances and expenses for elected politicians. So, this is a list of what it is possible to claim and what I do actually claim, with some notes for clarification and personal opinion.
Basic Allowance: Each elected councillor gets £8,402.00 per annum (before tax and National Insurance). My weekly council work varies based on how many local issues I am dealing with and how many meetings/committees are being held that week.
Special Responsibility Allowance: Since my promotion to the cabinet as the portfolio holder for Public Protection, Waste and Transport I receive an additional £10,503 (before tax and National Insurance) to cover the additional responsibility and workload.
I estimate that on average I am officially working on an average 25-30 hours per week. As I am also employed full time my allowances are taxed at the 40% tax rate.
Travel & Parking: Councillors are unable to claim for travel whilst on official council business within the borough. As part of my duties I have to on occasions attend meetings in London, Essex CC, Thurrock, Cambridge and sometimes at Norfolk CC. I could claim out of borough travel and car parking expenses but I choose not to.
I am also happy to put on record that I also receive a car parking permit (All members are entitled to this) whilst on official council business within the borough – and yes I do lead by example and pay for car parking when using car parks whilst not on council duty. Having a parking permit does not allow me to park in banned areas, such as roads with double yellow lines, or take up two or more spaces in a car park.
Communications: I strongly believe that my communications with constituents are vital and that that councillors should be as accessible as possible. All councillors are entitled to a telephone line for calls that need to be made for council business as well as a council provided laptop and internet connection. As I can access all my council emails through an online system, my home computer is adequate to the job so I do not have a council laptop and pay for my own internet connection. I also choose not to have a council blackberry as a portfolio holder.
What I do not claim:
Carer’s Allowance: Although I have a young daughter and occasionally need child care to cover when I am at meetings – I have never claimed, nor will ever claim any ‘carers allowance’. It is there to help more varied people become councillors which is laudible. But I do not need it and so will not claim it.
Out of Borough Subsistence: It is possible to claim for food during meal times and accommodation when you are on county council business. I do not and will not
Local Government Pension Scheme: The local government pension scheme is a generous one, as with most public sector pensions. No Southend councillor is entitled to join this scheme.
Councillors Meals: Although it wasn’t always the case, any councillors meals before any evening council meeting are not funded by the taxpayer and is not an allowance.
What I Spend Myself: All costs associated with my Street Surgeries are paid for out of my own pocket. As are dry-cleaning of suits I wear to many official meetings and functions that I attend as a councillor, web costs involved with keeping this (and other) sites running – and the time I spend maintaining them.
There are many, many additional costs that are incurred by doing the councillor job properly including leaflets and literature to residents. Again – no complaint from me. I love the job and do not begrudge a penny of it.
I am honored that West Shoebury residents have put their trust in me to be their local voice and view being a councillor as privilege not a right and did not get involved in politics for financial reasons. I simply think it fair that the sort of detractors like Independent Party leader Cllr Terry who portray councillors as being on the take and on a gravy train be faced with the truth to challenge their fiction.