Jason Kitcat defending the indefensible

It is nothing but outrageous, and in today’s Argus Green Council Leader, Jason Kitcat, defends the payment to councillors in Brighton and Hove allowances of £11,463. It is a disgrace and I am bitterly disappointed, nay shocked, that councillor Kitcat can defend the indefensible.

But unlike the Taxpayers Allowance, I think this figure is far too low. We expect a great amount from our councillors, and most put in more hours than the majority of us work. It isn’t just a matter of attending meetings, it is the community engagement, the case work, the background research, the attendance at community meetings, and so on. We expect them to have a broad vision for the City, to articulate policies, and to debate the issues of the day.

I think that councillors should be paid much, much more, perhaps three times the current amount, but I think there should be far fewer councillors. I would suggest a reduction from the current 54 councillors to, say, 20, with extra responsibility allowances for perhaps 5 or 6 of them – the Leader, the cabinet member/chair of 3 or 4 key portfolios, and the leaders of the opposition parties.

The current cost of allowances in Brighton and Hove, excluding special responsibility allowances, is around £620,000. The BPB alternative would cost £688,000, the difference being saved from the numerous special responsibility allowances that currently exist.

Councillors are important. At the last election we lost four young councillors who could not afford the time and career sacrifice that being a councillor entails. By paying councillors a decent salary, and contracting them to work a set number of hours (thereby allowing them to develop alternate careers and/or training) the quality of democracy would improve.

Vote tactically or prepare for the worst

The Taxpayers Alliance is advocating the end of universal Child Benefit amongst a list of money saving ideas.  According to one reporter on Radio 5 Live this morning, the Tories are hiding under their duvet covers, not wanting to be drawn on which cuts they will support.

What exactly do the Tories stand for?  David Cameron is trying to be all things to all people.  He won’t confirm that there will be public spending cuts after the elction, but says he is being ‘frank’ with the voters. How will he reduce public expenditure by £20 billion?  All he has done is to pledge to cut subsidised alcohol and food for MP’s and reduce ministerial salaries if the Tories win power at the next election – populist issues but as significant as spitting into a Force 10 gale at Cape Horn.

The best quote comes from Lib Dem Danny Alexander who said, “The Liberal Democrats have proposed not renewing Trident. David Cameron wants to increase the price of salads”.

At least Chancellor Alistair Darling is being more honest. He has said the government will have to “cut costs” and “shift resources to the front line” to deal with the recession’s effects. He said “hard choices” included looking at selling off “non-essential public sector assets” and shifting resources to “where they are needed most”. The devil will be in the detail.

Expect it to be bad if Labour get back in. Expect it to be a whole lot worse under the Tories. Our best hope is for a hung Parliament. That’s why the Tactical Voting Campaign is so important.