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Barnet Leader announces dramatic U-turn on pay rise, as colleague mounts leadership challenge

PUBLISHED: 15:55 16 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:05 07 September 2010

Back-tracking: Barnet Council and Conservative leader Lynne Hillan

Back-tracking: Barnet Council and Conservative leader Lynne Hillan

THE leader of Barnet Council has backed down on plans to award herself and colleagues huge pay increases, after a party member announced he wanted to oust her. Councillor Lynne Hillan, Leader of Barnet Council, announced today that wil

Charlotte Newton

THE LEADER of Barnet Council has backed down on plans to award herself and colleagues huge pay increases, after a party member announced he wanted to oust her.

Councillor Lynne Hillan, Leader of Barnet Council, announced today that she will recommend members' allowances be revised at the next council meeting.

But her decision comes just days after her colleague, Cllr Mark Shooter, wrote to Tory councillors urging them to back him as party leader, at the Group's AGM on September 7.

In his letter, Cllr Shooter, who represents Hendon ward, said: "I believe that the current administration's flawed decision to increase allowances showed them to be totally out of touch with public opinion and an administration that could no longer be trusted to make important judgements.

"Barnet Conservatives need a fresh start to regain the trust of the electorate through these challenging times. We need to restore faith and respect in the council both among residents and our staff in order to cope with the difficult decisions that need to be made over the next few years."

The council agreed on July 13 to changes to the members' allowances scheme, giving Cllr Hillan an extra £20,000 a year and almost doubling the pay of her cabinet members. The council said it decided to adopt the London Councils Scheme to reflect councillors' workload.

But the decision to award cabinet members such whopping pay rises at a time when the council and national government are tackling the national deficit, caused outrage.

Cllr Hillan said her announcement today was a direct result of her "listening" to colleagues and residents. She did not mention Cllr Shooter's leadership challenge.

She said: "I have spent the last fortnight speaking to colleagues and it has become clear that we simply can't have the conversations we need to have with residents about the future of the council, our services and the decisions that need to be made, with this debate about allowances going on.

"There are times when leadership is about action and there are times when it is about listening. I have listened and I am acting.

"Residents have made it clear that they expect elected members to set an example to other parts of the council."

She said that the proposal she will put forward - to revert members' pay to the level it was at before - will make savings of £95,000.

But Cllr Alison Moore, Leader of Barnet's Labour Group said: "While I'm pleased with the decision to review these obscene allowance increases, the truth is that, far from "listening" to the public, Cllr Hillan has been forced, unwilling, into this u-turn by a potential challenge to her leadership from a member of her own Group.

"The fact remains that her judgement has been exposed as seriously questionable - she should never have proposed these increases in the first place - and this whole episode has severely damaged her, and her group of councillors - none of whom voted with the opposition against the increases.

"The Tories have descended into a quagmire of public in-fighting, and, quite frankly, the council has been left with a lame-duck leadership - how much longer can Cllr Hillan continue?"

For the full story see the Ham&High on Thursday (August 19).

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