Durham council has been severely criticised for giving two of its counsellors a £12,000 clothing allowance at a time when it is making £200 million cuts to local services.
Council chairwoman Councillor Linda Marshall receives a clothing allowance of £8,580, and the vice-chairwoman Councillor Pauline Charlton receives a clothing allowance of £4,280.
In defence of the clothing allowance, Deputy Council Leader, Alan Napier, said the allowance had been in place for nearly 30 years, and that the chairwoman had very important civic responsibilities and was bound to incur ‘significant expenses’.
The decision to continue giving the allowance to the two women has been criticised by other council members, and the Yorkshire County Council, who said they do not pay clothing allowances to their representatives.
The regional secretary of the Trade Union Congress said “Everybody knows the financial pressures that councils are under and trade unions have encouraged councillors to take decisions that prioritise protecting services and jobs. Councillors need to take the lead by making sure that there aren’t any unjustifiable allowances or other perks that they receive.”
A Liberal Democrat counsellor, Mark Wilkes said “You can find a reasonably priced suit for a man or woman for about £100. So the £12,000 plus that is paid to councillors Marshall and Charlton would pay for the equivalent of 120 suits. We should scrap this waste. Labour are fleecing Durham residents and opposition councillors and we have had enough of them trying to pull the wool over our eyes.”
Nigel Martin, the council’s Liberal Democrat leader, said money saved by axing the clothing allowance could used to part-fund the county’s Citizens Advice Bureau which is having its funding contributions cut.
He said: ‘We don’t believe there should be an enormous allowance like this for clothing.
‘£8,580, let alone £12,000, is more than a pensioner gets to live on during the course of a year.’
As you can see in the main picture, the council’s chairwoman, Linda Marshall, likes to make the most of the £8,590 she has to go shopping each year. Wonder how much that coat cost?
This is an outright abuse of power and an incredibly selfish act when the country is experiencing severe cuts to public services.