County councillors have been blasted after a controversial rule change that will enable senior members to pocket thousands of pounds in ‘special allowances’.
At the first full North Yorkshire County Council meeting since the elections a fortnight ago, members voted to approve a motion to change the wording relating to councillor remuneration.
Previously, only additional annual payments are paid to party leaders and secretaries, of groups with more than ten per cent of the 72-strong authority..
However, all but four of the councillors voted to remove wording, lowering the number of seats needed for a party to claim the allowances from eight to seven.
The ruling means that members of both Labour and the Independents can now claim the allowances - both of whom picked up exactly seven seats in the recent election.
Opponents of the move have branded the decision “shocking”, while newly-elected Labour leader Eric Broadbent, who is set to benefit under the amendments, claims that the change is designed to protect future councillors.
“It’s a disgrace when people are having problems paying their bills and put food on the table,” said UKIP Councillor Sam Cross, who voted against the amendments.
The cash-starved County Council is currently trying to slash millions of pounds from it’s budget.
And the Filey representative added: “It’s outrageous that when the authority is looking to make £92 million in savings, other parties are voting to change the special allowance rules.
“Labour and the Independents both failed to get more than the requisite 10 per cent, so they should not get these allowances.”
Prior to the vote, the leader of the biggest party, the deputy leader and the leader of the second party in terms of group members each received additional allowances in order to help them fulfil their duties.
Annual payments of £2,316 and £772 are made to the leaders of “other parties and secretaries of political groups”, where the group has more than 10 per cent of all members.
The elections on May 2 saw two groups – Labour and the Independents – each win seven seats out of the total of 72, less than the required minimum previously stated by the remuneration committee.
Cllr Broadbent insists that the decision to shift the 10 per cent threshold was simply a matter of “rounding down not up”, and that both the Independent and Labour parties have decided to share one allowance out between all 14 councillors.
He added: “We have to look at protecting people who are going to get into the job in the future, and this is a fair way of doing it.
“Not every councillor is well off, or even in work.”