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Trio banked more than £35,000 each
THREE councillors from the Basingstoke area are among the county’s top 10 highest political earners.
Keith Chapman, Elaine Still and Stephen Reid each banked more than £35,000 in 2011-12 for their roles in local government.
Basingstoke’s top earner was former borough mayor Cllr Chapman.
Figures show that in 2011-12, Cllr Chapman earned £47,061 as both a county and borough councillor.
The county Cabinet member for culture and recreation received £32,075 in county council allowances and expenses, bolstered by a £7,542 allowance for being a member and committee chairman for the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority.
He also received £7,443 as a borough council ward member for Pamber and Silchester. He stepped down from borough council duties in May this year.
Cllr Chapman said he believed the amount he and fellow councillors are paid is fair. He told The Gazette: “I don’t think it’s practical to receive nothing for what we do to be honest. I think councillors work pretty hard for little thanks.”
Cllr Still, county councillor for Loddon ward, and Chineham borough council member, earned £41,683 in the last financial year. Her county council job earned her the basic £12,003 allowance, as well as £11,586 in special responsibility allowances for her position as the chairman of the culture, communities, and rural affairs select committee, plus £482 in travel expenses.
At a borough level, Cllr Still earned £17,611. This includes her basic councillor allow-ance of £6,602, alongside a £11,009 allowance as a borough council Cabinet member for communities, sport and culture.
Cllr Still, who works as a councillor full-time, said: “The fact of the matter is if you went through all the hours we put in, our hourly rate would probably be less than the minimum wage.
“It is not an easy job, and just like being an MP, you are in the public eye. It is a lot of responsibility to make decisions that affect everybody, and we take that seriously.”
Cllr Reid banked £37,163 in the last financial year for being the Basingstoke North West county councillor, county Cabinet member for strategic development, and, until May this year, borough councillor for Buckskin.
Cllr Reid highlighted that councillor allowances are set independently.
“Both the county and the borough have independent committees that look at allowances, and it is set on their advice,” he said.
Peter Fleming, chairman of the Local Government Association, defended councillor allowances.
He said: “Providing financial support ensures that local democracy does not become the preserve of the privileged few who can afford to give their time for free.”
But Hampshire-based campaign group Isitfair said the figures show that many councillors are in effect salaried politicians.
Isitfair founder Christine Melsom said: “Many people seem to think their councillor does this job ‘pro bono’ but that could not be further from the truth. It is a job and they receive a salary, and many of them get a pension.”
In Hampshire, the biggest earner was Cllr Keith House, the Liberal Democrat county council opposition leader, and leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, who netted an estimated £71,600.