East Cambs approves up to �50 a time for councillors to hire halls or centres for regular surgeries

COUNCILLORS have been told they can now claim up to �50 to hire village halls or community centres for regular surgeries.

East Cambs District Council has approved the payments following a request from Conservative councillor Tom Hunt and Liberal Democrat Sue Austen.

The money, the council says, is to cover the costs of venue hire and will be additional to the basic allowance in excess of �4,500 per year, with additional monies available for subsistence, travel, IT and miscellaneous items.

In 2010/11, the last time the expenses figures were published, councillors claimed almost �250,000 from the public purse. The highest claim in that year was from council leader Fred Brown, who received �19,824.35.

In accepting the �50 fee councillors were encouraged to “share facilities in order to minimise costs” and to use the most “cost effective venues”.

The trial was approved by councillors at Thursday’s meeting of full council on the proviso that no more than four claims are made in one calendar year and no extra expenses are claimed for promoting the surgery.

Chief executive Jon Hill said: “The proposals would allow members to commence the holding of surgeries on a trial basis to enable them to assess local demand and the operational practicalities.

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“The arrangements then can be reviewed in six months time to assess member uptake and any issues arising, with a view to introducing a more formalised process, if necessary.”