STRATFORD district councillors who voted for increased allowances have been branded hypocritical.
Conservative councillors agreed to an 8.4 per cent pay hike in allowances at the authority’s annual meeting on Wednesday (May 19).
It means the basic allowance for councillors is set to go up by some £370 to £4,878 while there will also be rises for the leader and deputy leader, the various committee chairmen, and leader of the opposition group.
The move follows the publication of a report by the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), which recommended the increase be implemented.
The report maintained the rise would actually lead to a saving of nearly £60,000 a year due to the recent reduction in the number of district councillors from 53 to 36.
But Jason Fojtik – Labour’s only representative on the authority in the Clopton ward – hit out at the decision.
He said he would not be taking the increase and added: “Council funding has been cut year on year and local government workers have had their pay cut while taking on extra responsibilities because their colleagues have lost their jobs.
“I am disgusted the Tories have supported an inflation-busting increase, which is wholly unjustified. Adopting this measure smacks of sheer hypocrisy to give oneself a massive pay rise only to tell employees to tighten their belts further.”
Lib Dem councillor Peter Moorse, who took over as leader of the party’s three-strong group, tabled a motion asking for a smaller increase but just two Lib Dems, one Labour and one Independent councillor backed it.
He said: “I’m extremely disappointed. It sends a terrible message when the very first item on the agenda of the very first meeting of the new council is councillors awarding themselves a pay rise.
“Council staff have had a cost of living increase of 3.22 per cent over the last five years and we suggested councillors should move no faster than this. Unfortunately the Tories disagreed and wanted more.”
But council leader Chris Saint refuted the claims.
He told The Observer: “Both Coun Moorse and Coun Fojtik’s parties have just lost an election badly, but they are still trying to fight by playing on people’s emotions.
“For many years, members have chosen to freeze allowances during the period of local authority pay restraint, however the panel reflected allowances to take into account the extra workload arising from a reduction in the size of council.
“If the duties of an officer or staff member change, they are job-evaluated and regraded. Effectively the panel has job-evaluated councillors so comparing the former allowance with the new rate is simply not comparing like with like.”
The current situation will be reviewed after six months.