Councillors who hike their own pay should hang their heads in shame

The TaxPayers’ Alliance is very similar to the Consumers' Association and Which? magazine, but with one crucial difference: they help consumers spend their hard-earned money wisely in the private sector, while we monitor the spending of taxpayers' money in the public sector.

Today the TPA published an online tool to allow local council tax payers to see how much their Councillors pay themselves, compared to Councillors in other local authorities across the country.

By simply typing in your postcode, you can see in black and white the pay of your local Councillors and compare it to the basic allowances of Councillors in the other 433 councils in the UK.

Tax:   A person filling out a Self Assessment tax return form

Tax: A person filling out a Self Assessment tax return form

Some of our findings are quite astonishing, revealing huge disparities across the country. Why, for example, do Tameside Councillors receive a basic allowance of £11,640 when nearby Trafford (a fellow Greater Manchester borough) only take £6,352?

The job of being a Councillor in Tameside cannot be that different. Both councils offer the same services: street lighting, rubbish collections, social care and schools, so the huge difference is a matter of concern.

There is a similarly worrying situation in Scotland. North of the border all councils receive a basic allowance of over £16,000, as set by the Scottish Government, with small room for manoeuvre by local councils.

So while it may not be entirely the councils’ fault, is it right that Councillors in the Orkney Islands receive the same allowance as Councillors in the Edinburgh?

For local politicians, whose job originated as a voluntary activity based on civic duty, it’s alarming that so many are receiving such hefty allowances for which there is no real scrutiny.

Don’t forget that on top of this allowance, Councillors are also entitled to claim expenses for travel or accommodation costs, so the basic allowance starts to look like a salary, especially when topped up with extra allowances for cabinet responsibilities.

Now that all this information is out in the open for the first time, I hope it will spark a debate between local council tax payers and politicians. Councillors who have increased their allowances whilst making cutbacks elsewhere or even increasing council tax should hang their heads in shame.

Taxpayers should use the TPA’s new online tool to monitor how their money is being spent and to hold their local Councillors to account, because without local action, there’s a real risk of council tax rises next year.