Why was the system for Arun District Council allowances changed?

Five pound notes 644141891
Five pound notes 644141891

You recently published an article relating to councillor’s allowances and invited comment. The first question has to be ‘why was the system ever changed?’.

As I recall, councillors received ‘out of pocket’ travelling expenses together with an allowance for meetings they attended. That system seemed to work perfectly well.

However, this was changed to a more complicated system whereby there are now up to six different allowances which some can claim, although they all receive a basic allowance which is currently £5,734 per year.

According to the Arun District Council website, the total amount paid to councillors in the year ending March 2018 was £428,584.65, which seems a very large sum of public money that could probably be put to better use.

I have no doubt that many councillors give up a lot of time to discharge their duties, however, there are many other individuals who also carry out important work for the community and receive nothing like this remuneration.

For example, magistrates and school governors carry a great responsibility for the decisions they have to make and will receive either nothing or perhaps a mileage allowance and a contribution towards their lunch.

Why such a huge difference between equally important jobs being done by volunteers in the interests of the wider community?

I am afraid I do not subscribe to the opinion that the allowances should be such ‘so as to attract the best candidates for the role’.

This is often cited when there is no other evidence to support any proposed increase in salary or allowances.

There are some excellent people who carry out duties for the community because they want to, and their reward is the satisfaction they derive from helping others.

It is equally ridiculous to compare the allowances paid to councillors in one district with another and start quoting positions in league tables.

Any allowances paid should be based on the effectiveness of the council itself, the achievements of the councillors and the meaningful engagement they have had with the stakeholders of the community; residents, parish and town councils etc.

Similarly, any increase or decrease should be decided by a panel of stakeholders; and not some remuneration committee.

It must be remembered that recently the Arun Local Plan was allowed to expire before a new one had been approved.

This permitted developers to push for developments that were neither wanted nor appropriate.

The replacement Local Plan took so long to approve, primarily due to the local opposition to its content, which was not taken on board by some councillors.

This is a major failing and to increase some councillor’s Special Responsibility Allowance will be seen by many to be rewarding

failure.

I do believe that a major review of the payment of this public money to councillors is overdue and that a new fair, just and appropriate system should replace the current one.

Martin Sutton, Wandleys Lane, Walberton