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Council chief backs down over pay rise

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 29, 2014

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An under-fire council leader has decided not to take her 36.5 per cent pay rise after mounting pressure from locals and the Government.

Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott revealed she had decided to forgo the increase to her allowances over Christmas and the New Year because the protests against it had "become such a personal campaign that it was getting in the way of council business".

She, along with fellow members of the Conservative-controlled Cabinet at Trowbridge's County Hall, were awarded a 22 per cent increase to their allowances after an independent assessor found that since making senior civil servants redundant, the elected councillors were doing far more work running the £1 billion a year local authority.

That increase, coupled with a decision to pay Mrs Scott for the first time for her work chairing a health board, meant her total allowances were increasing from more than £37,000 to £52,000.

A local businessman began an online petition against the increases, and before Christmas a defiant Mrs Scott held a briefing in which she said she would be accepting the raise "not for me but for whoever follows me".

A group of cross-party councillors have called an extraordinary meeting of the council, scheduled for next Tuesday, to vote to overturn the increases. Because of that, the council's treasurer has put the rises on hold anyway.

But by the time Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles came to Wiltshire last week and called on her to forego the increase, Mrs Scott said she had already decided to do just that. At the time of Mr Pickles complaining of the rise, Mrs Scott maintained she still would be taking the rise.

Cabinet members said they were worth the increases, which will see their allowances rise from £15,101 to £18,433, as they are often working 60-hour weeks running the council.

Ordinary backbench councillors are due to receive just a 1 per cent increase in their allowances, of £122 a year.

"I still think Cabinet members, for the work they do, are definitely due this increase," said Mrs Scott. "I will vote for it, but personally I will not take it.

"This issue has been personalised to me – I have broad shoulders – but it has affected the reputation of the council and the good work is not coming out because of this.

"I already made the decision before Mr Pickles said his piece. He said some nice things about me and the council, but his intervention on allowances wasn't helpful."

Union members are planning a rally outside County Hall in Trowbridge to coincide with the extraordinary meeting next week.

They said the allowances should not be increased while council staff are having their pay frozen and hundreds of staff are being made redundant amid budget cuts.

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