How £much do you have down the back of your sofa?

April 12, 2016 9:41 PM

I didn't immediately realise the significance of what had happened. It was at the full Shropshire Council meeting of 25th February. There had been some discussion about Councillors' allowances. Amidst calls for the allowances to be reduced, or scrapped, or at least re-evaulated, the new Conservative Leader of Council declared that he used to earn over £100,000 a year, and the allowances were, frankly, a pittance. Particularly as 'gone are the days' when a Councillor could claim an allowance and do far less work! Well, Councillors receive a basic allowance of £11,514 per year. Portfolio holders receive an additional £11,514 per year, and the Leader receives a total of £34,542 per year. I leave it to you to decide whether this is a pittance.

That was not the event that has set me thinking though. A little later in Council proceedings, my colleague and fellow Lib Dem Charlotte Barnes raised an amendment to the fees and charges being proposed by the Council. Under these proposals, charges for 16 - 18 year olds to get the bus to college are being increased, from £658 per year to £875 per year. That's an increase of 33%, which is a big hike. There is some consolation that this can be paid termly, so in three instalments. For those families on benefits, the costs are being increased from £67.5 per year to £142.5 per year. That's an increase of 111%, and has to be paid all in one go.

Councillor Barnes' proposal was that these changes should be re-examined with a view to getting them dropped altogether. Remember that it is no longer optional for young people to attend college, and some families have more than one sibling at college at once. The proposal wasn't allowed on a technicality, and there was no willingness from the Conservative administration to listen to the idea and try to make it easier for young people to build their futures. And then it struck me. How can you expect a man who has earned £100,000K a year and thinks Councillor allowances are 'a pittance' to have any sympathy at all with someone who is struggling to find £142.50 to pay the year's bus pass? If £11,514 is a pittance, £120 must be the sort of change you'd find down the back of the sofa. How can someone so well cushioned from life's harsh realities be trusted to make decisions about the services we need?

Out of Touch doesn't begin to describe it.