By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
A “hardship fund” has been proposed for cash-strapped Kent county councillors that lose their seat in next year’s elections.
Kent County Council’s (KCC) head of governance, Benjamin Watts, has called for a wide review looking at options open to County Hall for helping councillors short of money following the elections next May amid the “unprecedented” Covid crisis.
The KCC chief officer says he is “concerned” on a “humane level” that some elected members leaving office in May may find it difficult to find new work due to mass job cuts and a far more competitive labour market.
He said: “I am a little concerned that if in May we are still where we are now, and, we have some members who have been with us for some time and don’t retain their seat, that we may have some individuals in a hardship situation.”
No specific options have been laid out as more research is needed. The basic allowance for a KCC member is around £16,000 for the financial year. Some receive extra payment for committee chair roles or being cabinet members.
But councillors are not entitled to redundancy payments and the majority are unable to contribute to pension schemes whilst they are serving. The issue was proposed by Mr Watts and debated by a panel of councillors yesterday.
KCC’s main opposition leader Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem) said hardship payments for people leaving public office was “nothing new” and is built into Parliament but he suggested seeing whether other councils had done something similar.
He warned: “It is something we need to look at very carefully and be sensitive to public opinion. Clearly none of us would want KCC to be out of line with the sector at large.”
Former KCC cabinet member Cllr Bryan Sweetland (Con), who is the chairman of KCC member services, said MPs received “parachute payments” when they lose their seats and have pensionable jobs, which few Kent councillors had.
KCC’s Labour Group leader Cllr Dara Farrell complained that writing articles about councillor allowances had “turned into almost an industry in itself” while little was said about the earnings of MPs or police and crime commissioners.
Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott’s annual salary is now £86,700 while MPs receive around £80,000.
Cllr Farrell said: “It would be great if we could be more on the front foot talking about the fact we don’t get pensions and that wind-down payments are not paid when we lose our seats.
“We don’t have the opportunity to go on and write for the Telegraph or make after dinner speeches.”
£16000 so called earnings, £15000 to give away to pet schemes plus travel expenses. And they now these people are looking for more from public purse. Look upon election winner having a fixed term contract and at the end good by bye if not re-elected or contract renewed if elected. Unbelievable thinking in this climate wanting more. I question the existing value for money.
I wonder where they have found the funding for this. I suppose there is that £1.6million KCC, has sitting waiting to spent, on a worth while project. Oh my mistake I forgot they spent that the other week pointlessly closing and opening roads in Thanet. If I worked KCC I would be trying to keep out of the press at he moment.
I think the idea is wrong, i will not be taking council taxpayers money if i lost my seat. If i become unemployed i dont wont special treatment. I will try to manage like many people in thanet on the welfare system. ,or if possible get a job. Practically who decides how much each councillor receives, i have if i am elected I will not take any further pay rises as I believe it will be unfair to take a rise while people in their millions are losing their jobs
We the lay people have to make provisions or rely on the state during this period. Why should County Councillors be treated any different. There must be some Councillors that still work or have businesses. i.e. Paul Carter the former leader has many fingers in a few businesses I believe. Why should the likes of him receive residents money.
Is it supposed to be a fulltime job being a KCC councillor? In which case it’s very low paid. If it is full time then we should ask for a breakdown of what our councillors actually do. Also, I wonder how many people struggling on this level of pay have tbe chance to get money for losing their jobs.
Top councillors are heavily paid Christine
Head of youth service sits on about 60k plus expenses
We are talking about KCC Councillors who receive £16000 ALLOWANCE not full time salaried KCC Officers!!
All KCC Councillors cost just over £2,000,000 last year!!
Its not a job , many county councillors have full time jobs , some are also district councillors. I got elected for 4years, if i lose in may then someone else will replace me . I move on, end of a chapter . The suggestion of getting a golden farewell payment is morally wrong
Thank you Cllr Lewis.
Many people do volutary work and do not expect to be recompensed for their time and traveling. There was at some stage a suggestion that school governors would be compensated for the hours and traveling expenses donate for the benefit of children. This was turned down by Kent. County Councillors get traveling expenses I believe of in the region of 48p per mile plus they receive an allowance according to position held and or responsibilities. However I can see many councillors as in local councils voting for this additional sum.
The idea that County Councillors who lose their seats next year, for want of a better expression, receive ‘parachute payments’ to adjust for loss of their allowances is unacceptable.The question really needs to be asked did this idea come from Mr Watts or did an elected member plant the idea in his mind?
Whichever way it is a crazy suggestion. County Councillor Barry Lewis hits the nail on the head on several aspects of this idea and I agree entirely with his comments.
People who choose to stand for election do so voluntarily and it’s only in the last two decades that it became widespread that the great majority of local authorities (excluding town and parish councils) awarded all Councillors a basic allowance. Prior to this most Councils operated a system of set payments for attendance at council meetings only plus travelling allowance where applicable. Chairs of Committees etc did get what one termed a responsibility allowance which was fair enough.
The pendulum for remuneration of some Councillors has certainly swung too far into what I would say was largesse. There is a growing percentage across the country who see being a Councillor as a nice top up to their pensions and other employment. For the record I certainly do not include Barry Lewis in this group!
Finally the actions and possible mindset of Mr Watts speaks volumes about unelected and in many cases seemingly unaccountable senior public sector managers not only in local government but other bodies like the NHS.
This is a frankly preposterous idea. Everyone who stands for public office knows that being ‘voted in’ goes hand in hand with the possibility of being ‘voted out’. Being a Councillor and serving your residents is a huge privilege, however the members allowance isn’t a salary, it’s taxable and there is no pension. There is full disclosure of expenses claimed.
I certainly wouldn’t take a further allowance of this type, nor in these difficult times would I take a pay rise.
I have tried hard to let my residents know what I do and where they can contact me. Many do. Daily.
You can see more on this website
Hahaha. Hilarious. Benjamin W(atts)TF!?
AS ever Cllr Constantine & Cllr Lewis are on the side of the residents not their own pockets
This is taking the piss, i am quite surprised that tey have not proposed that if a member loses their job that “they retain their salary for 5 years plus average expenses plus another allowance to cover cost of looking for other employment plus a lump sum to cover the trauma they will suffer. They are having a laugh, if the lose their job , tough get on the bikes and start looking for alternative work , after all they are no different to any other person who loses their job.
Then again, let’s look at it another way.
County Councillors who lose their seats aren’t really responsible for that. They will fight like hell to keep their jobs!
So why blame them and punish them for suddenly finding themselves without any income?
Just like the vast majority of any claimants for Benefits. Most claimants these days are in regular paid employment, after all.
And thousands are going to lose their jobs this year because Covid19 has revealed just how poorly financed most companies and public services are. They just can’t survive for long with reduced work.
So why NOT have some kind of enhanced payment for people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own?
At the moment, Universal Credit is a form of punishment for the lowest paid. A form of humiliation where you are made to feel guilty for claiming it and where it can take over 5 weeks for any money to come through. So you have to go to Foodbanks.
Then, when it arrives, it barely covers the most minimal standard of living, and runs out before the next payment is due!! More foodbanks!
So why don’t we now accept that few people claim benefits as an easy option and that we will soon be flooded with people who have lost their jobs because of the Covid crisis. NOT because they are “lazy” or “stupid” or any of the other insults aimed at justifying keeping people poor.
So why not pay a decent level of Benefits until jobs become available(assuming they ever do!)
Let’s get one thing straight shall we. It is not a job, it is voluntary and shouldn’t be entered into for the income!
this has got to be a joke, hardship fund for someone who probably has another job. I had to give up my job after my wife had a stroke 4 years ago, i get carers pay , which works out at £1.91 per hour based on a minimum of 35 hours caring per week, there is no hardship fund for people like me, and there are many of us in the real world. i had to cut back on many things, cancel subscriptions and memberships, the ex councillors will just have to do the same. (after they have used their savings up, mine didn’t last long). and what about all .the people who have lost jobs because of this covid virus, no fund for them either, councillors need to get in the real world.
Barry and Karen – thank you for taking the stance you are. It would be good to see all other Thanet based KCC councillors doing the same. Could you please let us Thanet residents know what we can do to ensure this idea does not proceed. Who do we write to at KCC? Is there anything else which can be done by us?
Perhaps cutting their allowance to £100 per month to cover costs of communications would be a good start. They can voluntarily return the rest for the good of all. Still can claim expenses to attend meetings. I doubt any contact with KCC will produce any positive result. The individual KCC Councillors can make their choice and then inform their constituents of their choice and reasons.
Jane, thank you for your comments, your correspondence should be directed to the leader of kcc , Roger Gough at sessions house county hall Maidstone