First class travel taken off the rails End of the line for mobile phones Huge allowances increase is slashed

First class travel taken off the rails

End of the line for mobile phones

Huge allowances increase is slashedNEW leaders of Hartlepool Borough Council have slashed politicians perks - even though it will put themselves out of pocket by thousands.

The moves, which particularly hit the leader of the council and deputy leader s post, were agreed unopposed at a special meeting last night.

As part of a major money-saving drive, the new Lib Dem/Tory coalition pushed to:

slash the huge increase in allowances agreed by the last Labour administration;

dump the controversial use of all mobile phones;

cut all first-class rail travel;

call a halt to the conference gravy train; and

scrap the contentious People s Panel.

The plan should save the council 45,000 to 50,000 a year - cuts new leader of the council Arthur Preece reckons are significant.

Liberal Democrat Coun Preece, who officially became the new leader at the meeting last night, said it is time Labour s extravagant spending came to an end.

He added: Before the elections earlier this month, we stated our intention to reduce the amount paid out in councillors allowances.

Now that we are in a position to act we have honoured that pledge.

One of the new administration s most significant moves is to overturn increases in allowances due to come into effect today.

Last October, the Labour-led council backed the independent People s Panel proposals to put up the council leader s allowances to 16,000, increase the deputy s to 9,000 and give each of the other five Cabinet members 8,000.

Under the regime proposed by the new coalition, all members of the Cabinet - including Coun Preece and his deputy John Lauderdale - will get just 7,200.

Opposition leader - now Coun Russell Hart - will get 7,000 in a move Coun Preece said will reverse the People Panel s decision to downgrade the post.

Coun Preece insisted cost-cutting is vital if the council is to claw back more than half a million pounds already spent out of next year s budget by the Labour-led council.

They were prepared to spend anything to stay in office, he said.

We felt that the situation with members allowances and associated costs really called for us to lead from the front and we are."

Leader loosens Labour's long hold

HARTLEPOOL Borough Council has a new leader at the helm - and for the first time in 22 years the post isn t filled by a member of the Labour Party.

Liberal Democrat councillor Arthur Preece was last night quietly installed as the leader of the council at a special meeting in the Civic Centre.

Any expected opposition from the Labour councillors failed to materialise and both his appointment and his deputy s - fellow Lib Dem councillor John Lauderdale - went unopposed.

The changes, including the appointment of Conservative Coun Frank Rogers as Mayor on Tuesday night, sees non-Labour councillors in three of the town s most prestigious and powerful positions.

Labour lost control of the council in the polls of May 4 when they lost nine seats to the Lib Dems and Tories.

They now have 21 councillors while the Lib Dems have 14 and the Conservatives nine.There are also three independents.

At last night s well-attended meeting only two councillors were missing, Tory councillor Stan Kaiser who is away, and Labour man Coun Trevor Rogan.

Moves to create a new ruling group out of a coalition of Liberal Democrats and Conservatives went without hitch.