Revealed: Westminster Council's expenses
CASH allowances for Westminster s councillors have increased at 10 times the rate of inflation over the past two years, the Wood&Vale can reveal. An inspection of the City Hall s accounts has revealed in just two years the bill, footed by taxpayers, has s
CASH allowances for Westminster's councillors have increased at 10 times the rate of inflation over the past two years, the Wood&Vale can reveal.
An inspection of the City Hall's accounts has revealed in just two years the bill, footed by taxpayers, has soared a staggering 45 per cent from £605,948 in 2006 to £880,334. Inflation is currently running at 4.4 per cent.
The sum includes £588,172 spent on councillors' basic allowances and £291,254 on 'special' allowances, which vary depending on a councillor's position.
News of the increases in money spent on elected councillors comes at a time when many council employees are embroiled in a pay battle with Westminster bosses.
Heather Wakefield from Unison, one of the trade unions representing workers in the dispute, said: "How can councillors possibly justify 45 per cent increases in expenses and allowances and at the same time expect council workers to accept a 2.45 per cent below inflation pay offer?
"It is council workers, not councillors, who deliver hands-on services to the people of Westminster and they deserve to be treated better."
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Mark Wallace, campaigns manager from pressure group TaxPayers' Alliance, added: "It is totally inappropriate for councillors to vastly increase their own allowances at a time when taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet, particularly in the current economic conditions. Councillors have a responsibility to reduce this bill."
The figures have come to light following a Freedom of Information probe by the Wood&Vale.
Leader of the Labour group in Westminster, Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg who received £7,500 in special allowances last year, said he understood why residents would be angered by the rises.
"The increase in the allowances were set by the Tories, who run the council. But the increase is considerable and I know there will be many people who feel rightly upset about the level of the increase.Very few people will have got such a huge rise in their salaries in the last two years."
Cllr Melvyn Caplan, in charge of the council's finance and support services, said recent hikes in cash rewards were to compensate for lower salaries in years gone by.
He said: "Allowances are paid to members in Westminster and other London councils based on the recommendations of an Independent London wide panel, last reported in 2006.
"For the period of 2005/06 and for many years prior to that, the allowance for Westminster councillors was set at a level well below the amount recommended. In recognition of the fact that Westminster was paying at that time significantly below the average London allowance, Westminster increased its allowances to be closer to the London average.