Banbury’s Labour Councillors Surinder Dhesi, John Christie, Mike Beal and Mark Cherry were in a minority by voting against a rise of 19% in Councillors’ allowances.
At the meeting on Tuesday (9 December 2014) thirty-eight voted in favour, 20 against and there were three abstentions.
The vote comes less than 24 hours after council leader Ian Hudspeth revealed the authority must make another £20m of cuts, on top of the £64m axed from services last year.
Oxfordshire County Councillor John Christie
John Christie, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, and Councillor for Banbury Ruscote, said, “I cannot agree that the Council should vote for these increases in the current economic climate. The Council has been forced by Government to make huge reductions in vital services. It faces further difficult cuts next year which will have a devastating effect on children’s and adult services.”
He added, “Too many people are on the minimum wage, below the living wage or on zero hours contracts. Essential, deserved benefits have been cut for low paid, unemployed or disabled people, while the wealthy have fared better.
The Councillors who voted for the increases showed a total lack of understanding of the reality of people’s lives and people’s bewilderment that their representatives could contemplate doing this. It is a crass failure of political leadership.
I note five local Conservative Councillors who voted with their group for the increases have now pledged to refuse to take the money. Then why on earth did they vote for it? Their empty gestures will make no difference. Money will still be reserved in the budget for the allowances which will be taken by the majority of Councillors. This is money- £160,000 a year -which would have been spent on vital services.
It is not too late. When the Council decides on the budget cuts in February, Labour will be voting against the allowance increases in favour of using the money to mitigate cuts in adult and children’s services. Conservatives including the five refusing Councillors can still vote against. I hope your readers who feel outraged by the decision will lobby them to vote no.”