Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why aren't we talking about allowances?

The City Tory Group have been moving for months to get a debate on Councillors allowances and - in our view - cut them overall whilst rewarding those members who do take on extra workload. Anything which reduces the burden on taxpayers during this time of recession and cuts is vital for helping to restore public trust. I say - we are not in this for the money nor the glory (what glory?!?) so let's show this to the public.

So in the same way that I feel that Labour, the LibDems and Greens have blocked this debate at City Hall, now the Tories are doing the same at County Hall (click here for more) over the issue of allowances for Twin-hatters; those people who serve, and claim allowances, on 2 different councils. In Norwich this includes Labour's Bert Bremner and the Green Stephen Little. There are various Conservatives in the same position in the County too.

I understand the point about recieving the allowances for the work you do - double the work meaning double the allowances. In fact a LibDem Councillor wrote recently to the EDP to make this very point. However I also understand the anger that being a Councillor is the equivalent to a part-time job and that some people are building up massive allowance claims to live on because being a Councillor is their sole income. I understand some people believe that to be wrong and that Councillors need outside experience and aren't rounded people if politics is all they have. I also understand that people know that they are voting for a twin-hatter and do it with that knowledge. I also understand that having synergy between councils through twin-hatters can be a good thing. I understand that some people don't want taxpayers money to be used as an income for aspiring young politicans who just want the time to devote to a political career. It is - as you can tell - very complicated.

But the answer to these questions won't come from closing down debate. Let's talk about them, not as party animals, but as elected representatives looking to do the best for people. Shutting down debate looks shifty and as if we are happy with the status quo because some people do well out of it. And this isn't a party issue - don't believe those who tell you otherwise - because Councillors in all parties on at leats one council has voted not to talk about allowances.

The only way to address this perception and restore public trust is to have the debate; fully, honestly and in the open.

No matter which party you are in, refusing to talk about the issue won't make it go away. It just makes all politicans look that little bit more aloof than we did before.


David R. said...

Anthony - your ability to stand aside from your party and speak up for local people have really impressed me. As a former LibDem voter I am now actively considering voting for you next time around.

Anonymous said...

The few twin hatters their are in Norwich represent the division that is go terminus with their ward. As a Town Close resident I didn't vote for Stephen Little but he was very straight forward that electing him as the County as well as a district councillor would allow him to be full time. Ditto with University presumably the reason thet Bert Bremner won on an otherwise dismal day for Labour was because off his reccored of hard work as a local councillor.

This seems rather different from the Conservative practice of having people be a district councillor in one part of the county, a county councillor elsewhere while they live somewhere else altoghther.

Antony said...

Anon - yes you are right, but many Tory twin hatters have co-terminus wards/divisions too. Some, as you say, hold different wards and live in a third. It's not a practice I would ever partake in, but as you say, as long as the residents know this before they vote then its fine (I suppose). I am interested by Stephen Little's decision to go full-time politican; I was out canvassing in the ward yesterday and everyone knew Stephen but not a single resident could name the other 2 beyond "ah", "yes" and "thingey". Does this matter? I think so. Also a number of people said he now had no excuses - they raised an issue with him which as a city and country councillor he should have been able to cover. As I say a difficult issue. So let's talk about it and not shut it down.

Anonymous said...

Antony. I think you are wholly right on this one. Councillors should be open to debate on this one; not clamp up like hedgehogs on this issue.

Double dipping/Twin hatting may be justified (say if your party is small/same division). I worry where twin hatting in a main party stops other candidates (with interesting backgrounds -young-experienced from getting involved in districts where twin hatters have made it a career as such.

Whilst I really consider that every penny is fully justified for our Norwich City Councillors (and this has been cross party sense and agreement); I am far from confident I can say the VfM same for my council tax pounds going to Cabinet County Councillors/ Portfolios Twin Hatters at County Hall.

This debate needs to be had.

Anonymous said...

Antony, I agree with your concerns about twin-hatters but lets be honest, your own party has one of the worst records for this abuse. Lets take the Catton Grove conservatives as an example - John Fisher- city councillor for CG also a Broadland District Councillor for Thorpe St Andrew, Eve Collishaw- city councillor for CG also Lord Mayor and until recenty county councillor for Taverham, Charlotte Casimir- county councillor for CG and claims to live in Mile Cross also Broadland District Councillor for Acle and claims to live in Acle as well ! Do these people adequately represent Catton Grove ? I think not...

Anonymous said...

So you are against twin hatters who represent multiple areas. Does that mean your will be kicking twin hatter John Fisher from your group? He represents Thorpe St Andrew and Catton Grove.
Maybe it is something to do with Catton Grove, Brian Morrey was a twin hatter for the ward, your county councillor is a cllr for Acle and Eve was a twin hatter for Taverham and Catton Grove. Talk is cheap. If you had a clear policy of not having twin hatter then fine. Do they especially when not of your Cllrs represent Norwich with the 2nd hat. The way I see they need to choose, Norwich or the other area. Stand down and let someone who will represent that area take over. Will you support that?

Antony said...

No, you misunderstand what I am saying here. I would never be a twin-hatter myself - that is a personal political choice.

I believe an MP could be a Councillor for somewhere in his/her constituency, I believe a GLA member could also be a councillor. But I don't like the idea of having to represent 2 different areas (as one poster said, in many ways the Norwich examples are better because the wards are co-terminus).

However I wouldn't stop other people being twin hatters as long as their ward knew this when they voted for them.

What I am saying is that we ought to debate the merits of this, and their allowances, openly and in public. Shutting down the debate on twin-hatters (no matter which side of the fence you are on) is a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

From experience I wouldn't say that any of the current Catton Grove conservative councillors revealed that they already represented wards elsewhere when they put themselves up as candidates for the CG ward and don't willingly reveal it even now they are elected.

Antony said...

I don't know about John and Charlotte because I wasn't involved in their campaigns.

But back in 2007 I was Eve Collishaw's Agent and I can absolutely assure you that it was on 2 of the leaflets we put out AND it was the centre-piece of a nasty attack leaflet by Labour, which although it ultimately backfired hammered home the fact.

From my experience on the doorsteps people didn't seem to mind. Being a County Councillor for Taverham was, I believe, neither a positive nor a negative for Eve.

But I maintain people knew who they were voting for. That's what is important.