The Waverley Liberal Democrats Chairman, Stewart Edge, has responded to a request for comment from the Farnham Herald regarding Waverley Borough Council, and Surrey County Council both increasing allowances by the highest amount in England.
The Farnham Herald asked:
"Would the Lib Dems like to comment on the Tax Payers Alliance March 8 report on council allowances that found:
- WBC had the highest % increase in basic allowance 2012/13 - 2014/15 from £2,454 to £4,501
- SCC has highest total for allowances and expenses 2014-15 - £1,860,177 - for an English county council
- SCC highest total allowances and expenses in South East - £1,851,579
- SCC one of largest increases total allowances and expenses 2012/13-2014/15 31% from £1,417,291 to ££1,860,177"
Responding to this, Stewart Edge, Chairman of Waverley Liberal Democrats, said that the Taxpayer Alliance data was disturbing but not surprising. When the Surrey Conservative majority awarded themselves the increases – larger than recommended by the Independent Panel appointed to advise the Council on allowances – the Panel resigned because of the ‘flagrant disregard’ of their recommendations. Surrey LibDem leader Hazel Watson referred the matter to the Secretary of State but no action was taken.
At the time the Conservative Leader, Peter Martin, said ‘the new allowances ‘were in line with neighbouring authorities’. With the Taxpayer Alliance data showing that Surrey’s total allowances and expenses were the highest for an English County Council and highest in the South East, Stewart Edge commented that Mr Martin had some explaining to do.
As for Waverley, Mr Edge said that when the increases of more than 80% were agreed by the Conservative administration – in part they said to attract more candidates to stand for election - such large increases should not have been made without reducing at the same time the number of councillors. ‘These increases and those in Surrey are particularly objectionable when local government salaries have been almost frozen and, in Surrey, Council tax was increased by 2% a year.’