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Paul Carter ignored independent pay panel's recommendation before voting for 15% allowance rise

The leader of Kent County Council urged an independent panel to back his party’s proposal to increase councillors allowances by 15% in a last-ditch attempt to persuade them to change their mind.

Cllr Paul Carter, the Conservative leader, made an eleventh hour appeal to the panel to consider a re-think a fortnight before the council considered a report recommending a much more modest 1.5% rise.

Mr Carter wrote to the panel following an emergency meeting of the Conservative group at which “a signficant majority” indicated they wanted a 15% increase.

Kent County Council leader Paul Carter
Kent County Council leader Paul Carter

Details of the correspondence between Cllr Carter and the three-strong panel were released to the KM Group under the Freedom of Information Act.

The exchange of emails reveal that the appeal was given short shrift by the panel, which disputed the claims made by Mr Carter about KCC falling behind.

In his email, Cllr Carter said the panel had previously taken into account the rate of inflation, notably when it proposed an 8% increase for the period of 2009-2013.

“We can see no good reason why the principles that were applied by the...panel in 2009 should not be applied again,” he said.

The new information provided “clearly shows that Kent, as the largest local authority in the country, now lags behind many other local government authorities and indeed lags behind substantially other public sector remuneration allocation.”

County Hall in Maidstone, KCC's headquarters
County Hall in Maidstone, KCC's headquarters

He writes that following a “very full and comprehensive discussion with colleagues...the significant majority concluding that a 15% increase from 2009 levels should be applied.”

It would, he concludes, “be regrettable if the county council could not endorse the panel’s recommendations.”

As it was, the panel refused to budge and in a reply dismissed Cllr Carter’s assertions that relevant data had been ignored.

The panel said it had considered the same research when arriving at its recommendations “so there is nothing new.”

“As we have stated, over the period 2001-17, allowances have in fact increased by 191% for the basic allowance and well in excess of 60% for the leader’s special responsibility allowance.”

The 15% rise which was subsequently voted through means the basic allowance is worth an extra £1,920 - the rate rising to £14,725 for all county councillors. The leader’s pay rate will rise to £48,425.

Once other increases are taken into account, the council will have to find an additional £244,000 to absorb the extra costs.

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