HAMPSHIRE’S highest paid county councillor has a bigger pay packet than MPs.
Liberal Democrat Keith House collected an estimated £71,600 as a member of five bodies in 2011-12. He had more publicly-funded roles or “hats” than any other county councillor, according to figures compiled by anti-council tax group IsItFair.
The scale of his allowances has brought fresh protests from the group outraged at the way some elected councillors are professional politicians.
Payments to 78 county councillors now cost taxpayers £1.9m a year.
As well as being paid £12,000 just for being members of the county council, most claim multiple allowances for also sitting on district councils, the fire and police authorities and other bodies, including South Downs National Park.
And 40 county councillors have joined the generous pension scheme enjoyed by local government staff, guaranteeing them an income based on the allowances which they are paid as councillors.
Taxpayer-funded employer contributions to their pension pots cost £120,841 – pushing the cost of their total pay and pensions over the £2m mark.
Christine Melsom, Hampshire-based founder of IsitFair, 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 also get a pension.”
Figures show Cllr House was paid £28,381 in allowance and expenses as chief of Eastleigh Borough Council and £26,216 as opposition leader on the county council.
He netted £12,500 to sit on the boards of the South East England Economic Development Agency (SEEDA), the regional body axed last June and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) which funds new affordable housing.
The full-time politician also received an estimated £4,537 as deputy chairman of the environment and housing committee of the Local Government Association (LGA), an umbrella group for local authorities.
Excluding expenses, Cllr House was paid about £67,471 – more than an MP’s annual salary of £65,738.
Asked if he represented good value for money, the father-of-four said: “I will let the electorate be the judge of that.
“In Eastleigh, I have kept council tax down, have protected services, improved facilities and followed-up on case work. In Hampshire, I have kept the administration to account.”
Cllr House said his posts at SEEDA and HCA were ministerial appointments unrelated to his councillor roles.
He added: “My LGA role gives me the opportunity to argue nationally for policies that assist Hampshire in much the same way that many other councillors do, including the leaders of Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton.”
Conservative Sean Woodward collected £51,083 as a backbench county councillor, leader of Fareham Borough Council and a member of Hampshire Police Authority. He also runs a healthcare company.
Fellow Tory Mel Kendal was paid £49,575 as a cabinet member of the county council, a member of New Forest District Council and Hampshire Police Authority. He also has private work.
In total, the county council forked out £1.4m for councillor allowances and expenses in 2011-12.
The county froze councillor allowances for the third year running to save money but has not reduced them despite cutting services and jobs.
Councillors at Southampton City Council volunteered to reduce their allowances by 5.5 per cent last year.
Peter Fleming, chairman of the Local Government Association, defended allowances, saying: “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.”
Hampshire County Councillors Allowances and expenses 2011-12
The top ten
Keith House £71,634
Sean Woodward £51,083
Mel Kendal £49,575
Ken Thornber £47,782
Keith Chapman £47,061
Adrian Collett £43,168
Elaine Still £41,683
John Bryant £38,752
Keith Evans £37,596
Stephen Reid £37,163
Source: IsItFair includes allowances claimed from the county council, district councils, Hampshire police and fire authorities and other publicly-funded bodies.
Blob) Total allowances claimed by councillors on other local authorities in Hampshire were not compiled by IsItFair this year.