Graded scale would help to clear up any confusion

Brent geese flying into the Solent for the winter,, having travelled thousands of miles	Picture by Alan Price / HIWWT

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In Fareham, Lib Dem opposition group leader Cllr Jim Forrest wants to see the pot of money presently spent on allowances being used to pay more councillors a smaller amount.

The obvious implication is that he thinks existing councillors get too much.

But we don’t agree with those who think councillors are overpaid in terms of the allowances they receive.

Their role is an important one in any community and they are called upon to make some big decisions that can have widespread implications for many, many people.

In days gone by councillors needed to be wealthy to take on the job.

Now at least we recognise the work they do by way of payment – and, in doing so, ensure that councillors are drawn from a wider spectrum of the society they are required to represent in the chamber and are of a high enough calibre to do the job.

But publication by pressure group the TaxPayers’ Alliance of all the basic allowances paid by local authorities nationwide has highlighted that the system is by no means perfect.

Why, for instance, is it that Fareham councillors are receiving an average of £6,465.50 per year – compared to £5,652 and £5,350 for Gosport and Havant councils respectively and £10,200 in Portsmouth?

Why does Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson get £28,560 per year when Fareham leader Sean Woodward gets £25,861.50, Gosport leader Mark Hook receives £18,782 and Havant leader Tony Briggs picks up £20,150?

We realise that figures are bound to vary from authority to authority because some are much bigger than others and the burden of responsibility is deemed to be greater.

But surely it is not beyond the wit of the government to come up with a graded scale of councillors’ allowances?

That way everybody would know exactly what the going rate was for a councillor in a certain-sized authority and there would not be any confusing anomalies.