A PROPOSAL to hike travel expenses for county councillors by almost 50 per cent has been slammed as “outrageous” by a union leader.
The shock move comes just a week after the authority announced its plan to save £239 million by 2018, which threatens cuts to front line services.
But David Lloyd, the secretary of the Kent branch of Unison,has criticised the move and said the county council should be prepared to take the ‘hit like everybody else’.
He said: “I think its outrageous to put mileage up to 66p when people within the council who are leasing vehicles only get 10p a mile.
“When we are in this position to lose £239 million at the end of the day how can they then equate to putting up travel expenses?
“The council is there to support people who put them there. I don’t think that’s fair. They are not looking at the whole picture.
“People have had to take a pay freeze and lower paid workers have had cuts to their enhancements. Councillors should be prepared to take the same hit as everybody else.”
The county council made representations to HMRC to prevent the new tax rules applying to Kent. It argued on the grounds the tax could deter members from serving the public or even becoming a councillor.
It also stated that members’ homes were their second workplace.
But HMRC rejected its arguments as ‘irrelevant’ and did not agree members could treat their own home as a workplace if they do not ‘routinely see constituents there’.
The other two options for councillors to consider are not to apply the HMRC rules but this would incur fines or to introduce a flat-rate allowance for home to office travel.
The option to increase the rate of mileage has already been agreed by the selection and member services committee on July 9.
Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Kent councillors already get one of the highest basic allowances of any English county council, so many residents will be surprised to discover that they can claim anything for mileage, let alone put in a collective invoice for over £130,000 a year. Local taxpayers will be appalled at the proposal to hike the mileage allowance above the HMRC-recommended level, especially at a time when budgets are tight and civic leaders are having to find savings. Councillors should be looking to reduce this exorbitant bill, not increasing it yet further.
Read more: http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/County-councillors-face-huge-hike-travel-expenses/story-19537120-detail/story.html#ixzz2Zwq67F66