Bid to cut basic Calderdale councillors’ allowances fails

Halifax town hall
Halifax town hall

Separate bids to reduce the cost of Calderdale councillors were defeated amid accusations of electioneering at the full meeting of Calderdale Council.

Councillors were asked to approve a two per cent increase to the basic councillor’s allowance, which is £10,352 before any rise.

A Liberal Democrat amendment to scrap the increase was defeated before Conservative proposals to reduce the allowance by 10 per cent – which they said would save Calderdale Council around £50,000 – were also rejected.

Both parties were criticised by Labour members of “electioneering” as the proposed increase had been agreed by all parties previously.

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Deputy leader of the council Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said that meeting had been chaired independently by the Vicar of Halifax Hilary Barber who had stated it was perfectly appropriate considering the work of Calderdale, which was a “decent and credible” council.

As all parties had recently agreed it the amendment was nothing more than electioneering, he said.

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Liberal Democrat deputy group leader Coun Ashley Evans (Warley) took issue with that and said the party moved the amendment “wholly on moral grounds” at a time when people were taking cuts in wages.

Fellow Liberal Democrat Paul Bellinger (Greetland and Stainland) said when Council Tax was rising by six per cent, he did not want constituents saying some of it was paying his increase but rather that it was going towards filling potholes, cleaning streets and other services residents wanted the council to do.

When that amendment fell, Conservative leader Scott Benton (Brighouse) introduced his party’s own amendment that the basic allowance be removed by ten per cent – £1,035 less.

Rather than electioneering he said the move was consistent with Conservative budget proposals over the last six years which aimed to reduce the cost of councillors.

Coun Collins said there was nothing in the proposal about reducing special allowances including those which councillors Benton and Liberal Democrat leader Coun James Baker (Warley) received as group leaders alongside Labour’s Coun Tim Swift (Town), or portfolio holders from all parties. “This is utterly, utterly cynical. It’s not about what’s best for the council, just votes for the election,” he said.

Coun Marilyn Greenwood (Liberal Democrat, Greetland and Stainland) said any councillor was free to hand back some of their allowances including for last year, if they felt strongly about it.

Coun Andrew Tagg (Conservative, Skircoat) said the Liberal Democrats had effectively rubbished the all-party agreement and so were being given an alternative to make an even bigger cut. “Here you are, ten per cent, vote for it,” he said.

The amendment was defeated and the increase approved, albeit with some councillors abstaining in the vote.

Voters will go to the polls to vote in local elections on May 3.