Dave Smith has been suspended from serving as a councillor in Gosport since March last year. He was found to have broken the council’s code of conduct after claiming its officers were ‘corrupt’ and being reported to the Standards Board for England by council chief executive Ian Lycett.
But his suspension, which has prevented him from attending any council meetings and carrying out the normal duties of a councillor, hasn’t stopped him taking advantage of a loophole to claim a monthly allowance of £435.
Is that right? Council leader Mark Hook clearly doesn’t think so.
He has called for Mr Smith to repay every penny of allowance he has received while he’s been suspended.
Mr Hook’s reasoning is simple. ‘If you can’t fulfil your duties as a councillor then you shouldn’t be given any allowance,’ he says, adding: ‘He has a moral obligation to repay the money.’
Yet Mr Smith, an ex-leader of the council, is digging his heels in.
He claims he’s saved the borough council £20,000 a year for the past 10 years by running Gosport’s waterfront festival for free.
He says he’ll repay his allowance if the council pays him consultancy fees for the festival and the costs of security training he had to undergo.
They are entitled to their different opinions, but this is in danger of sounding like a playground argument (although some would say many children can behave better than some politicians).
What is clearly needed here is a review of the way in which local authorities pay councillors.
We agree with the system of allowances. At one point councillors could only claim expenses, but that acted as a barrier to those less able to afford to take on the role on that basis.
Yet councillors who are frequently absent from meetings – and particularly those who are disbarred from serving as a councillor – should not be paid.
Mr Smith has received more than £5,000 in the past year for work that he has been unable to do.
The loophole that has allowed this to happen should be closed.