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Durham council to review disputed 'clothing allowance'
THE leader of a council which was criticised for paying its chairwoman and vice-chairwoman so-called clothing allowances totalling more than £12,000 a year has announced a wide-ranging review of such spending.
Durham County Council’s Labour leader Simon Henig said the review would look at all expenses paid to the chairman and vice-chairman, as well as the mayor of Durham – which he said cost taxpayers £120,000 a year.
- March 2: Row over councillors' £12,000 "clothing allowance"
- March 5: Clothing allowance under review as councillor claims fur coat was bought in "the sales for £30"
The announcement came after Liberal Democrat councillors launched a petition to scrap the civic allowances paid to the council’s chairman and vice-chairman – currently £8,580 and £4,280, respectively.
The Lib Dems said a review was not enough and the allowances must be axed immediately.
Councillor Amanda Hopgood said: “It is quite shameful that Labour councillors see a clothing allowance for their colleagues as more important than funding for frontline services. This must stop now.”
But Coun Henig said he objected to the term “clothing allowance”, as the money was used for a range of civic responsibilities, including some costs of awarding the Chairman’s Medal honour.
“I don’t find it helpful to have this political grandstanding.
“But we always listen to the public and I will be standing up a week on Wednesday (at a full council meeting) to announce a review into chairmen’s allowances.
“This will extend to other civic posts including the mayor of Durham. It needs to be part of a rounded discussion. I hope the Lib Dems will form part of this review.”
The council’s current chairwoman, Linda Marshall, is also expected to use the March 20 meeting to make her first public comments on the issue.
Coun Henig wants the review to be conducted by an all-party constitutional working group and begun as soon as possible – certainly before May’s local elections.
In recent years the Labour-run council has elected Labour chairmen, while the Lib Dem-controlled Charter Trustees group has elected Lib Dem mayors of Durham.
The Lib Dem petition can be signed online at http://alturl.com/brias or by calling 0191-372-5866.