Kent County Council has backtracked on a proposed sharp increase in mileage rate allowances for its councillors.
Council leader Paul Carter had proposed that this should rise from 45p per mile to 66p, after a dispute with HM Revenue & Customs.
It had said, in a ruling potentially affecting councillors elsewhere, that they could not enjoy a tax free travel allowance between their home and council offices unless they “routinely see constituents in their own home”.
A Kent report said: “A common sense approach to health and safety means that it is not appropriate for elected members to routinely open up their own homes to members of the public not known to them, which is particularly relevant for members who live alone.”
Reading council papers or completing correspondence at home “does not make that home a distinct place of work for the purposes of claiming tax relief on travel expenses”, it said HMRC had insisted.
HMRC had remained “intransigent” over the issue, despite Kent pointing out that said it covers a large geographical area – with some councillors travelling 12,000 miles a year on council business.
The report said this unfairly penalised Kent councillors compared with those who served in a smaller area, and was inconsistent with the tax relief available to MPs and members of the devolved administrations.
Cllr Carter said Kent had to follow HMRC’s ruling to comply with the law but proposed the increase to 66p to leave councillors no worse off.
This was initially accepted by all political groups except the opposition Liberal Democrats, but a public outcry forced Kent to drop the idea when councillors met last week.
Jonathan Isaby, political director of the Taxpayers Alliance, said: “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.”