Great Yarmouth councillors in spat as allowance cash is increased

View south along Hall Quay in Great Yarmouth towards the town hall.Picture: James Bass

View south along Hall Quay in Great Yarmouth towards the town hall.Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

Great Yarmouth Labour group voted for a £1,700 pay rise for one of its members while giving council staff a pay rise of just 1pc.

It was argued that the increase in licensing committee chairman John Holmes' special responsibility allowance from £1,876 to £3,579 reflected an increase in workload.

And Labour councillors said council staff had received no pay rise under the Tory administration since 2009.

But Tories criticised the discrepancy between the two increases at Tuesday's full council meeting.

Graham Plant, Conservative councillor for Bradwell north ward, said: 'It's with interest that the proposed increase [for the licensing chairman] is of a massive £1,703.

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'I think this is outrageous at a time when the council is looking to make savings.'

Tony Smith, Tory councillor for Caister north ward, chipped in: 'It stinks of job for the boys.'

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But Mick Castle, Labour councillor for central and Northgate ward, hit back: 'It's a shame some members don't read their papers.

'It's a very simple change to reflect the different workload of licensing.

'That's a natural justice in terms of rewarding the amount of responsibility in terms of the amount of work put in.'

He added that the total paid in allowances has fallen under Labour as fewer members sit on committees.

And leader Trevor Wainwright jibed: 'It's interesting to see some county councillors coming back into the borough council after years of non-attendance.'

Graham Plant lost his county council seat and cabinet position in the May elections.

While Labour councillors maintained the increase was justified, East Flegg Tory George Jermany called for an independent board to be brought in to decide the level of allowances for councillors.

As the debate moved on to increasing staff pay by 1pc, former mayor Barry Coleman noted staff have been doing more work for little extra reward.

But he noted they were not being rewarded for their extra work to the same extent as the licensing chairman - whose remuneration almost doubled.

Mr Coleman blamed the legacy of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown for the Conservatives failure to award staff a pay rise since 2009.

Brian Walker, Labour cabinet member for resources, also blamed national politics for Labour's decision to limit the pay rise to 1pc.

'It's going to go nowhere near to making up what they've lost,' he said. 'But when we've got a decent government back in that cares for the workers instead of cut, cut, cut all the time maybe that can change.'

The meeting became heated, with muttered snide remarks made on either side.

Michael Jeal, cabinet member for tourism, took exception when he perceived Mr Plant was accusing him of making light of the financial situation.

'When I laugh, you will hear me laugh,' he boomed, as the two stared each other down across the council chamber.

More arguing followed when the five Labour cabinet members put a motion to ask the government to implement a 'Robin Hood tax' on financial transactions to offset the need for deep cuts to local services.

Mr Plant said this was 'unworkable', but the proposal to send a letter was voted through by Labour councillors.

The meeting also heard the council is to decide how to spend a £1,864,000 efficiency support grant from government, Henry Cator will be the next High Steward of Great Yarmouth following the death of Michael Falcon, and HMS Dauntless has been awarded freedom of the borough.

In a public question, John Cannell asked what safeguards there are against explosions - such as that at a Texan chemical plant - for chemicals stored in Yarmouth.

He was given a technical answer by Val Pettit, cabinet member for the environment, but said people are still not sufficiently aware of the potential dangers on our doorstep.

The next full council meeting is set for September.

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