Group leader is criticised

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A SENIOR councillor has accused a group leader of putting “himself first” in a row over allowances.

Independent councillor Paul Thompson has criticised Putting Hartlepool First group leader Geoff Lilley for tabling a motion asking that the principal minority group leader allowance be raised from £1,730 to £3,461 under the new committee system.

Coun Lilley put forward the motion, which was agreed by the majority of councillors, at full council which had met to discuss the recommendations of the Independent Remunerations Panel (IRP).

The IRP had recommended Coun Lilley, as principal minority group leader, be given an allowance of £1,730 on top of the basic allowance, agreed to be frozen at £5,767.

Under the current system, Coun Lilley receives £3,461 for the same role. But from May that was set to be halved to 30 per cent of the basic allowance.

Coun Lilley argued his workload will increase as a result of the changes and that it should remain at 60 per cent, or £3,461.

But speaking afterwards Coun Thompson said: “Coun Lilley talks about putting Hartlepool first but I don’t see him putting Hartlepool first, I see him putting himself first.

“I find it completely shocking and distasteful, especially seeing as though we have officers and staff at the council who have not had an increase for more than four years.”

Coun Lilley, who said he spends a “considerable” amount of time reading papers and attending meetings in his role, added: “Within the IRP report there was no reasoning as to how they came about that the principal minority group leader allowance should be reduced, none whatsoever.

“We have all been told that our involvement has to increase under the new system, especially for group leaders to keep abreast of everything that is going on.

“My argument is that the allowance should have stayed the same.”

The majority group leader allowance and secondary group leader allowance have been scrapped altogether.

Conservative group leader Ray Wells, who is the secondary group leader, said: “We recognise the IRP have recommended this particular group should lose its allowance all together and we are happy to put that back into the public purse.

“If Coun Lilley wishes to take that, it is down to him.”