All 12 Councils (not including Medway) in Kent, have elected to publish Cllrs allowances and expenses on an annual basis. There has not been a word about this lack of transparency from any of the 559 elected councillors who represent us.
It is not just our dearly beloved Council, Folkestone & Hythe District Council, who have chosen to publish our councillors allowances and expenses on an annual basis, rather than a quarterly or monthly basis. It appears that all 11 other Kent (not Medway) Councils take this approach too. All 12 districts are represented by 559 elected members who receive allowances & expenses.
In 2017/18 allowances and expenses were published either quarterly, or monthly.
The leader of Folkestone & Hythe District Council has openly declared the he, Cllr David Monk, “agree’s with as much transparency as possible“, but when it comes to his and his colleagues allowances & expenses, we the public are NOT allowed to see them for a whole year. What is the necessity for this”cloak of secrecy”? Do he and his colleagues, have something to hide, something to fear? And Cllrs cannot claim ignorance as ignorance is no defence.
Dr.Susan Priest, Head of paid services for Folkestone & Hythe District Council, refers our public face to the Local Authorities (Members Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003. This is a statutory instrument. In law an Act of Parliament supersedes any regulation, as we understand. This is where the The Local Government Transparency Code 2015, which is underpinned by an Act of Parliament. The Council are ignoring the fact that expenditure over £500 a month must be published, according to The Code. Members allowances and expenses is expenditure and some receive over £500 a month, especially those with special responsibilities, who sit in our Cabinet, or are Chairs of Committees.
So far this financial year, April 18 – Sept 18, Folkestone & Hythe District Councillors, all 30 of them, have received (gross amounts) in allowances and expenses £210,000.
We note not one of our 559 elected Cllrs across all 12 districts (NOT Medway) has raised this lack of transparency. Not a single Conservative, or Independent, or a member of UKIP, they can claim ignorance, but ignorance is no defence.
Our public face contacted four Cllrs for comment to gauge their reaction and collect their thoughts and comments.
Cllr Alain Lewis (Lab) of Tunbridge Wells Council, believes allowances and expenses
“should be published quarterly at least”
Cllr Susan Brimm (Ind) of Thanet District Council, has said
“this lack of transparency will not allow the public to scrutinise cllrs, creating more mistrust of Councillors” she went onto say, it maybe a “cost cutting” exercise by Thanet.
Cllr Jeremy Kite MBE (Con) Leader of Dartford Borough Council has said:
“In my view, since allowances are set annually by each local authority and don’t tend to vary too much during the course of a year it would seem to make sense to publish the tables annually too. With regard to expenses, I certainly wouldn’t be averse to publishing them more frequently”
Cllr Len Laws (UKIP) of Folkestone & Hythe District Council said he was
“It’s the first I’ve heard of it and I’m not shocked nor surprised by the lack of transparency in the least.”
No doubt many of our 559 elected Councillors are not aware of this change. However, this does not in our eyes excuse their lack of knowledge. What is does demonstrate in our opinion is Councillors have taken their eye of the ball. They are failing, in part, to uphold the seven principles of public life; which are:
The fact the all 12 Councils(not Medway), all held by a Conservative majority, are now in step and denying the public access to monthly or quarterly allowances & expenses data, is staggering. It is an insult and sticks to fingers up to openness, accountability, honesty and transparency. This contemptuous behaviour, this arrogance, this exclusion demonstrates that Councils & Cllrs do not wish you; the wonderful and delightful residents of your district, to know what they received in allowances & expenses until AFTER the forthcoming May 2019 elections possibly.
The evidence that all 11 other Councils in Kent (NOT Medway) are doing the same can been seen on their websites:
Not a single Councillor from any of the 12 Council’s belonging to any party, nor any independent has raised this lack of transparency, with their Chief Executives, Head of Paid Services, or Leaders of their Council, as far as we are aware. Why might that be people?
Democracy needs openness & transparency like a surgeon needs a scalpel. So we call upon Folkestone & Hythe District Council and all the other 11 Councils, to not just “agree with as much transparency as possible“, but be transparent as possible, and release all Cllrs Allowances & expenses for Apr 18 – Sept 2018. We ask for this data to be released as soon as possible.
Actions speak far louder than words Cllr David Monk, and that goes out to all other 11 Council leaders too. The disinfectant of sunlight would not harm any of the Councils. It would in our opinion demonstrate clearly to the public – if Councils and Cllrs have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear.
The Shepwayvox Team – Dissent is NOT a Crime