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Allowances of £1million give value for money'

PUBLISHED: 16:46 03 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:44 23 August 2010

A council leader says its members represent exceptional value for money as figures reveal councillors have cost taxpayers more than £1million over the last five years. Details of the allowances paid to the 44 members of Gravesham Borough Council have b

A council leader says its members represent 'exceptional value for money' as figures reveal councillors have cost taxpayers more than £1million over the last five years.

Details of the allowances paid to the 44 members of Gravesham Borough Council have been released to the Reporter in response to the MPs expenses scandal.

Last year councillors in the borough cost taxpayers £220,931, this was up from £215,215 the year before, £205,287 in 2006/07, £197,675 in 2005/06 and £170,258 in 2004/05. In total members have cost taxpayers £1,009,366 since April 2004.

Leader Mike Snelling said: ""It's important to stress that the allowances are not like MPs allowances. They are not expenses and they are taxable. I have to pay tax on it like a salary.

"Everybody must make their own judgements but I think the council gives exceptional value for money when you think how hard everyone works."

Councillors' expenses are overseen by a committee made up of members of the public known as the Independent Remuneration Panel which determines how much they should be paid.

Each member receives an identical basic allowance payment for their role on the council. This currently stands at £3,402 a year. Additionally, members with special responsibilities, such as the council leader and chairmen of the various committees, receive an extra allowance on top of this. These range in value from £20,000 a year for the leader to £850 a year for the vice-chairman of the licensing committee.

Mr Snelling said: "The allowances are all set by an outside panel of three people which looks at them once a year. I have no control over it what so ever. Obviously the council leader gets more than the rest of the council because of what the leader does.

"This year we didn't take a rise and instead gave the increase which had been proposed by the Independent Remuneration Panel to the Citizen's Advice Bureau."

There is also provision for councillors to claim travel and subsistence expenses when attending meetings away from their homes. A set of guidelines detailing what can be claimed and how much be claimed can be found in Annex 4 of the council's constitution. It includes up to £65 per night for accommodation, up to £3.40 tea allowance and the cost of the cheapest available rail or bus fares.

Last year's biggest spender was Mr Snelling who claimed £782.

He said: "The expenses are either mileage claims or train fares for going to meetings which we have to keep the receipts for."

A full list of all councillors' allowances and a detailed breakdown of entitlements is available at www.gravesham.gov.uk.

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