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Leader condemns ‘petty attack’ over allowances
CHESHIRE East Council’s leader has defended the ‘true value for money’ that councillors give taxpayers.
Clr Michael Jones has hit back after we revealed that payments to the borough’s elected representatives cost £1.35 million last year.
Concerns were raised by Clr David Brickhill, that under the current system, councillors can be paid more than double their basic allowance due to special responsibilities and expenses.
However in a letter to the Guardian, Clr Jones described it as an ‘irresponsible and petty attack’.
He said: “I believe every councillor is working hard on behalf of their residents, representing their views and addressing their concerns.
“As the third largest unitary authority in the north west, Cheshire East covers a huge area – 1,116 square kilometres.
“It houses more than 370,000 residents, and has almost 170,000 homes.
“Those councillors without areas of special responsibility receive £12,000 a year.
“I believe they give true value for money.
“It is not just about attending the council’s meetings, although there are plenty of those.
“It’s about the meetings with businesses, charities, organisations and residents.
“It’s about reading through hours of agendas, understanding the issues and ensuring that informed decisions are made.
“When you add all those hours together it is clear that many councillors are actually receiving less than the minimum wage for their work.
“We certainly don’t become councillors for the money.
“We do it because we want to make a contribution to the community in which we live and to assist all those people we represent.
“But it is fair and right that we receive an allowance for the work we do.
“As leader I receive £40,000 in allowances.
“In a recent audit of my work it was found that I put in around 72 hours last week alone.
“I attended 27 meetings, put in 45 hours in the office and a minimum of another 30 outside the office.
“We all need to travel, not just in the borough, but to other places in the north west, and indeed some of us make regular trips to London on behalf of the residents of Cheshire East.
“I have driven 22,000 miles on council business since I have become a councillor.”
Clr Jones, who is the council’s cabinet member for resources, also said that allowances were set by an independent panel, and have not increased since the council was formed in 2009.
The full letter written by Clr Jones can be read by clicking on the link below.