Facing the unenviable task of having to vote on this recommendation in times of austerity and with public opinion still less than charitable sometimes, following the MP’s expenses scandal of 2009, Hedge End’s Town Councillors were asked to consider the following motion at their Full Council meeting of 18th January;
That the Town Council recommends payment of a travel and subsidence allowance for Councillors for approved duties outside the formal parish boundary only, payable at the rate set by the Town Council or varies from time to time in accordance with current legislation and an agreed expenses policy.
Much hilarity ensued when it was noticed that the word subsidence had been printed in the agenda, instead of subsistence.
Cllr Day also suggested that the word “allowance” should be replaced by “expenses”, which was duly agreed. The word “allowance”, in Local Government circles, refers to remuneration but this motion was about travelling costs and the occasional cup of tea and a bun…
Hedge Ends Town Councillors do not receive an allowance for their work on the council. Some members of the public gallery was surprised to learn that Councillors haven’t previously been able to claim Travel & Subsistence costs either.
Cllr Keith House, leader of Eastleigh Borough Council said;
“We want Councillors to attend courses in Eastleigh and learn things, but they shouldn’t be out of pocket.”
“The Town Council will pay these expenses, which are intended to cover the bus-fare to Eastleigh or the mileage travelled by car. ”
“This system will be fully transparent, with all claims published at the end of the year. The total claimed by each Councillor will be published. If nothing has been claimed the total will be zero.”
The motion was carried unanimously
There were however a couple of points that were not discussed.
The discussion did not consider how this would apply to the Councillors that currently live outside the boundaries of Hedge End.
There was also no mention that the wording of this motion would potentially allow Councillors to claim costs of their trips further afield, such as the recent trip to Möckmühl in Germany.
The trip to Möckmühl was in response to a formal invitation from the Mayor of Möckmühl, unsolicited and completely out of the blue. Although arguably on Town Council business, considering a twinning proposal that had been put to them by the Mayor of Möckmühl, that particular trip was entirely at the Town Councillor’s own personal expense.
Perhaps it is reasonable for Hedge End’s Town Councillors to be reimbursed for their travel expenses in such circumstances…?