Published: 09:11, 14 July 2017
Kent County Council is facing a growing backlash over its decision to increase councillors' allowances by a staggering 15%.
The decision to ignore the recommendations of an independent panel - which had proposed a 1.5% increase for councillors - has sparked widespread public criticism and fury among opposition parties at County Hall.
Now unions and the campaign group the Taxpayers Alliance have weighed in to denounce the decision.
And there has even been criticism from Conservative councillors on other authorities.
Tonbridge and Malling councillor Ben Walker tweeted: “An insult to #Kent Taxpayers. The sooner we abolish idle Kent County Council & establish Unitary Authorities the better. Appalling.”
He told the KM Group: "Tonbridge & Malling Council voted to reduce Councillor’s allowances, simply because we cannot retain the moral authority to make hard-hitting decisions on council spending if our own allowances are immune."
"It is appalling that Kent County Council can find the money to support extravagant Councillor allowances, but not for developing our highways in Ditton, Larkfield & Aylesford, which already exceed their capacity and blight the lives of residents on a daily basis."
In a statement, James Price, Grassroots Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Taxpayers have every right to be angry at this huge above inflation rise.
"Despite Kent County Council pleading poverty and raising council tax this year, they have someone found this extra money down the back of the sofa - against independent advice - to line their own pockets.”
"With the nation's finances yet to be fixed, councillors across the country will continue to have to make difficult decisions.
"For them to have the moral authority to carry out that important job, councillors must show restraint when it comes to their own taxpayer-funded allowances and ease the burden on hard-pressed families."
And the GMB union called on councillors to forego the pay hike.
Paul Maloney, GMB Southern regional secretary, said: "The Tory majority on Kent County Council are being hypocritical in awarding themselves a 15% increase in their pay while implementing a miserly pay increase for their staff working in schools.
"These councillors should forego this increase until such time they are in a position to deal fairly with their own staff who are facing high levels of inflation and difficulties in paying their bills."
KCC leader Cllr Paul Carter defended the increase, saying that councillors had lost out in comparison to staff.
“Seven years ago we reduced special allowances.
"We have increased staff pay by 18%... I do not think the increase is any way unreasonable. Why should we have to tolerate a freeze? It has not reflected the cost of living increase everyone else has had."
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