The £3.7m bill for democracy: Find out how much your Norfolk councillor got in allowances and expenses
PUBLISHED: 09:41 13 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:30 13 September 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
New figures have revealed how elected councillors across Norfolk were paid more than £3.7m over the past 12 months to represent people in the county.
The bill for the allowances and expenses for the 432 councillors who served on the county's eight councils in 2018/19 increased by more than £75,000 on the previous 12 months.
As the largest council, Norfolk County Council paid out the most, with just over £1.25m shared among the 85 councillors who served during the period.
That was about £50,000 more than the previous year, following a hugely controversial decision by the Conservative administration to increase their allowances by almost 12pc - against a recommendation by an independent panel.
While councillors do not receive salaries as such, they are entitled to certain allowances.
Basic allowances, which all councillors are entitled to, range from £3,675 at Breckland to £10,710 at County Hall.
And councillors with special responsibilities, such as council leader, cabinet member, leader of the opposition, chairman of committees and members of certain committees, are entitled to extra allowances.
Councillors are also able to claim for travelling and subsistence, while some authorities also provide allowances to pay towards council members' broadband.
Across Norfolk, more than 40 councillors are twin-hatters, which means they sit on more than one council, generally a district, borough or city council and Norfolk County Council.
Unsurprisingly, those councillors, the majority of whom are cabinet members at County Hall, make up nine of the top 10 of members who received the highest amount of allowances.
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The councillor paid the most in Norfolk was Graham Plant. He received a total of £47,040. Part of that total came from his role as deputy leader of Norfolk County Council and part from his duties as leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council - a role from which he has since stood down from.
He said his roles had involved him working hard to draw investment into Norfolk and to Great Yarmouth. He said he accrued expenses in travelling to meetings to bring that money in, including in London.
Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor was fourth on the list - receiving just over £41,000 - although part of that total came because he was previously leader of Broadland District Council, a post he has since resigned from.
Mr Proctor said: "I don't think any of us come into this for the money, that's a certainty. But we are prepared to give and invest a lot of time and resource representing our communities and representing the council to our communities.
"So, it it fair recompense for that? I would suggest that it is."
But Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at Norfolk County Council, said: "Children's centres are closing, disabled people face huge hikes in care costs and county councillors pocket an extra £50,000?
"Norfolk views councillor allowances increases in the current cash crisis as obscene. Who can blame them? We have no promise of even a freeze next year yet Norfolk faces more damaging cuts and big council tax increases.
"Labour councillors continue to give their unwanted increases to good causes and community activities. We can't trust the Tory administration to use the money properly if we refused to accept it. Instead we're making a difference directly and showing where Labour councillors' priorities are."
Ed Maxfield, who leads the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, said: "Last year the Lib Dems highlighted how Conservative-run councils were engaged in an allowances cold war, bidding against each other to escalate payments.
"As a result, Conservative councillors voted through a pay rise of 11.7pc.
"Lib Dem councillors proposed a 10pc cut in member allowances earlier this year, with the saving to be invested in fixing potholes. The Conservatives voting it down, preferring to spend the money on themselves rather than on Norfolk's roads."