Thursday, 20 December 2012

Coalition insensitivity on councillors' rights

This week, the two-faced Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition has praised the work of local councillors.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis (above) paid tribute to our “often unsung and ongoing work in standing up for local residents,” commenting also on our  “integrity,” “independence” and “respect” as “champions of the people.”

But he then went onto to announce the Coalition was planning to stop councillors from joining the local government pension scheme.

He said: “Councillors are volunteers undertaking public service; they are not and should not be employees of the council dependent on the municipal payroll … they are not professional, full-time politicians, nor should they be encouraged to become so.”

What hypocritical hogwash! I am a full-time councillor. This is because, in order to properly represent my community, it takes 40-50 hours a week. I have been offered other work, but have been unable to accept it because of my Council duties.

I take my role as a councillor seriously, my sole income is my “expenses” – in effect my wages – and I pay a small proportion of it into the local government pension scheme.

I resent the fact that politicians such as Lewis dare to describe councillors who pay into a pension scheme as having a “corrosive influence on local democracy.”

Make no mistake, this Government is doing all in its power to undermine local government with its cuts. And now it is deliberately trying to undermine the ability of individuals to serve their local communities as councillors, in particular making it ever more difficult for people of working age to take on this role in places like Cornwall, where there is only one principal authority.

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