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Is he worth it? Tunbridge Wells Borough Council leader set for 15 per cent pay rise

By Kent and Sussex Courier  |  Posted: February 05, 2013

  • Council leader David Jukes is being recommended for a £2,500 pay rise

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THE leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is in line for a 15 per cent pay rise as a swathe of cuts risk the future of community groups.

Councillors are recommending David Jukes and his cabinet members each pocket more than £2,000 extra a year in allowances, a higher increase than suggested by an independent panel.

A council advisory board, which Mr Jukes sits on, rejected proposals by the Independent Remuneration Panel for him to receive a £2,186 rise and instead opted for a £2,500 hike. Members also said cabinet members should receive £2,010 extra – or 22 per cent – rather than the £478 suggested.

A final decision will be made by the full council but the idea of senior councillors increasing their allowances during an economic downturn has been met with criticism.

Mike Bassett is a trustee of the Rusthall Community and Youth Project which is fighting for survival after the council said it would have to cut its annual £6,000 grant entirely.

Mr Bassett said: "We are all volunteers at the youth project so we're concerned increases in funds for officials are happening in these stringent times."

Rachel Sadler, a campaigner for Residents Against Gross Extortion which opposes increases in parking, said Mr Jukes should justify the rise.

She said: "As a resident of Tunbridge Wells, I am astounded that David Jukes feels he deserves such a pay rise.

"My suggestion would be that his pay rise should be related to his level of contribution within the community.

"For example, if he and his colleagues were to finally take action on the old cinema site, I would perhaps feel a pay rise of this magnitude would be justified."

At a meeting of the finance and governance cabinet advisory board on Thursday, councillors were given an option to pick between remuneration packages proposed by the Joint Independent Remuneration Panel, a group made up of five members of the public, or a different scheme suggested by borough council officers.

The advisory board chose the officers' suggestion, which also included increasing the basic allowance paid to all 48 councillors by £221.

Despite the proposed pay increases, the amount dished out in total through allowances would be £643 less next year.

This is due to cost cutting, including the abolition of the standards committee, having five cabinet members rather than six, proposals to merge the two planning committees and the introduction of cabinet advisory boards rather than separate committees.

The independent panel's suggestion would have added £37,000 to the allowances budget.

Nevertheless, Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said increasing their own pay would lead councillors to face a public backlash.

He said: "The councillors must reject these proposals if they are to have the moral authority to oversee the necessary savings in the years ahead.

"If these proposals are not rejected, Tunbridge Wells residents will have every right to feel badly let down by their civic leaders."

Caroline Miles, who runs Red Box Cameras in Tunbridge Wells and blames the council for failing to support small businesses in the town, was "incredulous" on hearing of the increases.

"I don't think there is anyone who would support them getting any more money," she said.

"I think it beggars belief and, in fact, it seems quite insensitive. I am really surprised, it is just bizarre."

Mr Jukes refused to comment until after the matter had been discussed by the cabinet.

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  • Terry_Cload  |  February 07 2013, 11:04AM

    I believe that the Independent Remuneration Panel is another layer of bureaucracy imposed by the government onto local councils. The members of the panel are essentially self selected and unelected. The work of this panel seems to be duplicated by council officers and its findings cherry picked by councillors, so shouldn't it be scrapped? This would save a modest amount of taxpayers money and might also enhance local democracy.

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  • scotken  |  February 06 2013, 1:51PM

    All politicians of whatever hue show complete disdain fir taxpayers. This is of course due to the fact that if they are in a conservative location they will get elected continuously as is the case with socialist and liberal areas. This of course brings to the fore that we should be nurturing a different and more people orientated party to actually represent the tax payers. The Tax Payers alliance should start to canvas for one and perhaps another organisation could be set up to oppose these people who now seem to regard themselves as above us mere tax payers whom it would appear are of no significance to them.

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  • Kent_Resident  |  February 05 2013, 10:50PM

    Someone should wipe that smug smile of his face. They should be taking cuts just like everyone else has to, not increases in allowances. Just like the Government of today, they have no clue about how life is for the average person trying to manage on less and less while everything is getting more costly around us. Why are they even allowed to decide how much allowance they give themselves. Why not leave that to the public to decide, by what they do for their communities in each Council area. The current scheme is disgusting. It's always the same old lies they spill out just to get into control, then once in charge they ignore us. How bloody selfish of them.

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  • FesterSpoon  |  February 05 2013, 12:03PM

    Irrespective of Mr Jukes political persuasion it is evident that he shares the same complete disdain for the rate payers as the Whitehall Mandarins show to the taxpayers. The "Them and Us " syndrome is alive and well in Tonbridge Wells This sort of "self award" is, to say the least, insensitive and unchristian, and has no place in local government in these straightened times. Perhaps it is that Mr Jukes doesn't know how hard up the rest of us are-------or, even worse, he doesn't care.

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