Cash-strapped North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has agreed to pay more than £3,000 to the leaders of the county’s Labour and Independent groups.
Currently, allowances are paid to the leader of the authority’s biggest party and the deputy leader and leader of the second party in terms of group members.
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.
Each of Labour and Independent candidates won seven seats in the recent NYCC elections, which is less than that required minimum stated by the remuneration committee.
However, a vote on Wednesday approved a motion to remove the words ‘more than’, and that ‘the schedule and scheme be amended to state that ten per cent of the membership is to be understood as seven in number’.
Just four members voted against the recommended additions. Those councillors were UKIP members David Simister, Coun for Harrogate Bilton and Nidd Gorge and Sam Cross, who represents Filey.
Liberal councillors John Savage and John Clark also opposed the changes.
Coun Simister said: “This is a shocking message to send out to the region’s tax payers, and I for one could not support it.
“Many of the roads in Harrogate are in a shocking state, and this money could have gone towards filling a few potholes. Instead it’s going to be filling members’ wallets and purses.”
County Coun Cross said: “It is outrageous that when the authority is looking to make £92 million in savings, Conservative, Lib Dem, Labour and Independents 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. It’s a disgrace when people are having problems paying their bills and put food on the table.”
As reported in the Harrogate Advertiser on January 3, NYCC is facing government funding cuts of £93million by 2015.
Frontline services may be at risk as the authority admitted it would have to embark on an even greater cost-cutting period.