December 11 2013 Latest news:
Friday, August 30, 2013
A councillor who pocketed almost £1,200 for attending a single meeting said the public think politicians are “power crazy money-grabbers”.
Marie Field, Great Yarmouth borough councillor for Central and Northgate ward, has now stopped claiming cash for her role as housing appeals committee chairman.
In 16 months she took £1,192 but was only called into action for one meeting, and she said the burden weighed heavily on her in a town that is one of the country’s most deprived.
She wrote: “I have been battling with my conscience for a very long time over collecting my allowance for housing appeals chairman.
“It only means around £15 per week but as I have only presided over one meeting in 16 months it’s hypocritical as a Labour, socialist person to take money under false pretences.
“Working class people of this town, and I am sure up and down the UK, still think politicians are power crazy money-grabbers.
“Well you all know by now, I pride myself over having a good relationship with ordinary folk.”
She said the respect she receives from residents “goes both ways”.
“That is why my conscience had to give up my allowance,” she added.
“Sorry if I have gone against the rules but I have principles where money is concerned. I will not claim for work I have not actually done. It’s just not the way I was brought up.”
She added she hopes the money, remaining in the pot of local taxpayers’ cash, can be used for “cleaning up our streets”.
And she wanted to assure people that she is not “after votes”, as she plans to move to Yorkshire in 2015 and will not be standing for re-election.
Robin Hodds, member services manager at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, explained that the council has two appeals committees which only meet when there is a case to be reviewed.
As housing appeals chairman Mrs Field is entitled to £894 per year in special responsibility allowance, and the appeals chairman, John Holmes, is entitled to £271 per year.
Mr Holmes is also entitled to £3,579 per year in his role as chairman of the licensing committee.
Council leader Trevor Wainwright defended the arrangement.
He said the reason there were few meetings was because there were few appeals from tenants to deal with which is a “good thing”.
And he said the allowances were set by an independent review body, though the council has the power to change this - as it did last month when it resolved to increase the licensing committee chairman’s allowance from £1,876 to £3,579.
He added of Mrs Field’s decision: “It’s totally her prerogative.
“Although we’ve had very few hearings, who’s to say we couldn’t get a spate of them in the next six months.”
Other special responsibility roles, for which councillors can claim an extra allowance, have more certainty in the level of their workload.
These include leader Mr Wainwright who is entitled to £9,364 per year special responsibility allowance, shadow leader Graham Plant who can claim £3,579 per year, the five cabinet members who can claim £5,201 per year and the five shadow cabinet members who can each claim £894 per year.