Oh yes he did! Somerset pantomime is back…
Ian Liddell Grainger has returned from holiday. A surprising silence has descended on the MP since the unitary decision was announced. Today he broke that silence. Even as Somerset councillors were still debating a response to the Minister the new unitary authority. Specifically they are considering the number of councillors they would like to have. A number of different options are being examined ranging form 80 councillors to 110.
Apparently this message has not got through to Bridgwater. This morning the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset addressed the House of Commons. This time he had the good sense to stop murdering mediaeval history by getting it completely wrong. And stick to using imagery instead. “Britain’s greatest king, King Alfred, is still spinning in his grave. All from the appalling abuse of democracy made when the unitary announcement came. It has been an absolute bombshell in Somerset. But now the senior civil servant Paul Rowsell has agreed that Somerset will only get about 80 councillors. And part of the reason for that is because the Leader of the County Council wishes to be paid at least the same as a Member of Parliament. And he wants all the new councillors to receive between £55,000 and £60,000 a year.
That was certainly alarming. These figures have never been raised by anyone in public before. Only the week before we spoke to a councillor who was wondering whether to stand. The reasoning being that an allowance of £13,000 and a large constituency would make the job impossible other than as a full time job. And a full time job on £13,000 a year didn’t really work.
Inevitably we asked the Leader of the Council for his reaction. A spokesperson for Somerset County Council gave a response to the allegations. “The claims made by Ian Liddell-Grainger are completely untrue. The MP knows this is false and all anyone interested has to do is read the One Somerset business case which promotes fewer councillors, less costs, and savings for the public. The idea that councillors will get salaries is laughable, as Jacob Rees-Mogg confirms*. And the suggestions regarding the level of these payments is equally absurd, as Mr Liddell-Grainger well knows. County councillors currently get allowances of around £11,000 per year. District councillors around £3,000 per year. No one in their right mind would believe this would leap up to £50,000 or £60,000.”
As to who is or is not in their right mind, we will leave readers to judge. For now we have at least a firm statement that the idea of salaried councillors on £55k plus is fanciful. Which I imagine is something of a relief.
* In response to his comment Jacob Rees Mogg told the Commons: “Essentially it is a voluntary job where people should not be out of pocket rather than a professional career where people might expect the sort of salaries they might get if employed by the state”