ON behalf of all councillors, I have to say I am appalled that yet again an irresponsible and petty attack has been mounted regarding councillors’ expenses.

As leader of Cheshire East Council I believe every councillor is working hard on behalf of their residents, representing their views and addressing their concerns. That takes time, in many cases, a lot of time.

As the third unitary authority in the northwest, CEC covers a huge area, 1,116 square kilometres. It houses 370,000 plus residents and has almost 170,000 homes.

Those councillors without areas of special responsibility receive £12,000 a year. I believe they give true value for money.

It is not just about attending the council’s meetings, although there are plenty of those. It’s about the meetings with businesses, charities, organisations and residents. It’s about reading through hours of agendas, understanding the issues and ensuring that informed decisions are made.

When you add all those hours together it is clear that many councillors are actually receiving less than the minimum wage for their work.

We certainly don’t become councillors for the money. We do it because we want to make a contribution to the community in which we live and to assist all those people we represent. But it is fair and right that we receive an allowance for the work we do.

As leader I receive £40,000 in allowances. In a recent audit of my work by an unknown member of staff, it was found that I put in around 72 hours last week alone. I attended 27 meetings, put in 45 hours in the office and a minimum of another 30 outside the office, including four evening meetings and two meetings at the weekend. In fact on Monday, I worked until 11pm, on Wednesday until midnight and on Thursday till around 1am answering emails. I received 450 last week.

We all need to travel, not just in the borough, but to other places in the northwest and indeed some of us make regular trips to London on behalf of the residents of Cheshire East.

I have driven 22,000 miles on council business since I have become a councillor.

Not every councillor will put in those long hours, but they will put in more than enough to justify the allowances they are paid, allowances that are set by an independent panel and which have not increased since the council was formed in 2009.

The allowances take into account the incredible diversity of our work, the size of our borough and the number of residents. They are also published annually on our website.


Leader, Cheshire East Council