Political opponents crossed swords during a heated exchange, as Cllr Ray Puddifoot, the Conservative leader of the Hillingdon Council, was accused of costing taxpayers £1million during his time in power.
Cllr Ray Puddifoot hit back at his Labour counterparts branding their party “financially incompetent” and “unfit” to run the borough.
In another withering attack at the meeting in the Civic Centre in Uxbridge last Thursday, Labour members, who opposed the rise in allowances, were told they had a “fig leaf of an argument”.
Labour suggested it was unjust for 'privileged' councillors to get more money while there were struggling residents in the borough. All councillors will get £10,819.25 for the next financial year, following the vote. See graphics below.
But the Tories pointed to an eighth year in a row of freezing council tax – a decision taken at the same meeting.
A basic allowance is paid to every member of the council to cover the costs of duties such as routine travelling costs and attending and preparing for meetings. A special responsibility allowance is paid to those with the higher workloads, such as group leaders and cabinet members.
The Conservatives, who control the council, won a majority vote to pass the motion, as shown below. Both basic and special responsibility allowances are set to increase as a result.
Councillor Tony Eginton of Barnhill ward, Labour, opposed the motion to increase both, stating that special responsibility allowances were “significantly above the level of other London boroughs”. He claimed that these are costing council tax payers £320,000.
He said: “Many families in Hillingdon are struggling and many will not receive any increase in their wages in the forthcoming year. If there is any settlement of the local government pay offer it should not be reflected in the allowances.”
Cllr Eginton asked the council to put residents first by donating their increase to the Mayor’s Charity.
Councillor Jazz Dhillon of Pinkwell ward, Labour, supported an amendment stating that councillors in “privileged positions” should not be raising their allowances.
He said: “With the changes to discounts on council tax affecting the most vulnerable in our borough it is surely wrong to reward ourselves with an increase in members’ allowances.”
Cllr Puddifoot responded: “Labour are not fit to run Hillingdon. The residents of Hillingdon agree, that’s why there’s 42 of us and 22 of them. The Labour group have been given the opportunity at least to honour their election pledge with regards to their own allowances to help the cost of living crisis, but declined, deciding instead to take the money.”
He added that all members reserve the right to decline any increase in their allowance, and that Labour should honour their claim by accepting a reduction in their own allowances.
Cllr David Simmonds, council deputy leader, Conservative, said: “What happens within that budget is fundamental to the quality of life of our residents. It seems that when we are looking at a comparison of over £106million being spent on libraries, education, caring for the vulnerable elderly. Labour have fig leaf of an argument.”
Cllr Eginton called for the special responsibility allowance to be cut by 20% and claimed the council leader has cost about £1million in allowances during his time in the role.
His Labour colleague cllr Peter Curling, of Townfield ward, stood up to support the request.
He said: “The Labour group have donated and maintained an ongoing donation of that increase to the Hillingdon food bank. I personally make a donation from my allowances to Great Ormond Street.”
Hillingdon Council stated on the Budget report that it has taken into account recommendations made by the Independent Panel for the Remuneration of Councillors in London in developing the allowance details.
The Conservative group announced council tax would be frozen for another year, meaning there has been no rise in tax prices in eight years for all residents, and ten years for over 65’s.
They reported that this had saved all residents £864, and over 65s around £1370 in total.
The council said it will also be providing £140,000 towards a curator for a new museum, £85,000 towards carers who work in the borough, and £25,000 towards domestic violence prevention, among other schemes.
Cllr Eginton says 10,000 families in Hillingdon will actually be paying more council tax #HillingdonBudget— Rachel Sharp (@sharpyrachel) 25 February 2016
Cllr Puddifoot says there will be further cuts from govt to come #HillingdonBudget— Rachel Sharp (@sharpyrachel) 25 February 2016