geaterCAOGL1W6I want to take issue with Paul Geater re the article he has written in today’s East Anglian Daily Times suggesting that all 38 Tory County Councillors will be claiming mileage for attending tomorrow’s Conservative Group meeting.

For the record: I wont be claiming.

The group meeting, where we are to discuss the budget, is being held in place of the full council meeting which was cancelled because of lack of business.

I don’t claim to attend a group meeting; that is political business and why should my residents pay?

I feel that the subtext of the article is a suggestion that ‘Fat Cat’ Tories are claiming all the allowances going.

That’s not true.

Not all Tories claim all allowances. For starters, members are sensible and share lifts.

As a matter of principle I don’t claim mileage to group meetings as they are part and parcel of being a Conservative. I don’t expect my residents to pay for my political activity. Nor do I claim meal allowances, nor do I attend the hot buffet lunch which is now provided pre full council meetings. Why should my neighbours pay for my lunch? I would eat lunch wherever I was, so I should pay: not the tax payer.money_2195112b

When the hot buffet lunch was introduced in July by Cllr Jane Storey the chairman of the council, I wrote to her saying

“I won’t be joining you for hot lunches pre-council. Fundamentally, I think this is an inappropriate use of public money especially at a time when we are seeking to make further budget cuts and our staff face a pay freeze.”

I don’t claim for mileage for council work in the division as I believe that is covered by the allowance I receive.

I do claim mileage for SCC briefings, training and meetings. So when I was assistant cabinet members for highways I had a high mileage claim because on behalf of SCC I attended highways meetings as far afield as Peterborough, Marks Tey, Lowestoft, Police HQ, and Bungay. Where possible I shared lifts with officers but that wasn’t always feasible.

I believe Suffolk County Councillors must be much more open about what they claim.

This is public money and the public has the right to know why and how it is being spent.

I am taken with how these matters are handled next door in Essex where on the county council’s website each councillor has a page with a set format listing the training that has been undertaken, the hospitality and gifts that have been received the electoral history etc. However the section on expenses and allowances just refers the reader to the scheme and doesn’t give the details of claims.

I think it should. So I would like to see us adopt the Essex format and add to it to include each individual councillors’ allowances and expenses and the spending from their locality and highways budgets. Voters have the right to know what their councillors cost.