Split over rise in allowances for Southend councillors

Southend councillors were divided as they voted to accept a 4.4 per cent rise in their allowances – leading some to vow to give the extra cash away.

On Thursday, plans to increase allowances were narrowly voted through as 22 councillors voted in favour, while 15 voted against the plan and nine abstained.

The council currently has a projected £14million deficit and some councillors called for the increase to be delayed a year – however this was rejected.

Speaking after the meeting, Labour Kursaal councillor Matt Dent vowed to give the additional allowance to Southend food banks after admitting his “conscience” wouldn’t allow him to vote for an increase.

During the meeting, he said: “I very much support the idea of politicians being paid but I am going to be voting against this report, the reason being that as a councillor I have stood on the picket lines with NHS workers, with rail workers, postal workers, with teachers and more who are trying to get a pay rise to match inflation and to be able to live.

“I’ve also done casework with people who are barely scraping by. I’m afraid my conscience will not permit me in a situation where we still have a cost of living crisis where I’m dealing with these pieces of case work every day to vote to increase my own pay.”

Daniel Cowan, leader of the Labour Group, said he would continue to spend “part of his allowance” on worthy causes in the community after voting against the plan.

James Moyies, Tory councillor responsible for public health, adult social care and constitutional affairs, voted in favour of the allowance increase insisting it is necessary to attract people to the role.

He said: “I think we’re failing to attract the people we used to attract. The demands on councillors and portfolio holders have increased. To do this properly people have to change their life around and that does have some financial effect. The money we get doesn’t fill that hole. It’s still less than others are getting in councils equivalent to ours.”

Cllr Moyies added: “If you don’t want the allowance, you do not have to have it. You can contact the chief executive and tell the chief executive how much of the allowance you do not want to take. Some people take the allowance and then give it to charity. That’s an individual choice. Everyone has different individual circumstances.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter