Sunderland council allowances under fire from Lib Dems

Lib Dem campaigner Niall Hodson
Lib Dem campaigner Niall Hodson
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Sunderland's Liberal Democrats are calling for council allowances and expenses in the city to be brought in line with Newcastle.

The party says official figures reveal some expenses claims for councillors in Sunderland are 50 times higher than those in Newcastle.

Liberal Democrat campaigner Niall Hodson said bringing ’ allowances to the same level as Newcastle Council could save more than £240,000 a year for other council services.

In 2014/15 the total amount spent on allowances and expenses in Sunderland was £1,192,311.72. Newcastle spent £946,099.75 in the same year - £246,211.97 less than Sunderland.

Both councils give elected councillors a basic allowance every year for the work they do. Sunderland pays £8,369 a year, actually less than Newcastle's £8,775.

But some councillors can also claim ‘special responsibility allowances’ for extra work on committees, membership of the cabinet, or for sitting on outside bodies such asd the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority.

Some of these allowances are £21,000 higher in Sunderland than for councillors doing exactly the same job in Newcastle.

For example, the leader of Newcastle City Council can claim a special responsibility allowance of £16,550 a year - but Leader of Sunderland City Council Coun Paul Watson receives £37,667.

The Deputy Leader of Sunderland claims £16,836 more than the Deputy Leader of Newcastle, and Sunderland Council’s cabinet members are paid an extra £20,716 a year while those in Newcastle receive an extra £6,207 for being in the cabinet.

The Mayor of Sunderland also receives more than the Lord Mayor of Newcastle - £17,205 a year compared to Newcastle’s £12,413.

Wearside Lib Dems are concerned that councillors are using the scheme to boost their incomes at the same time as they are proposing further cuts to services and introducing extra charges like the £25 ‘brown bin tax’ to collect garden waste wheelie bins.

Liberal Democrat campaigner for Millfield and Thornholme Niall Hodson said: “Labour councillors in charge of Sunderland City Council must stop pocketing huge sums in ‘special responsibility allowances’ before they cut more services for which people pay their council tax.

“Local residents understand that the Council has less money than it used to, but what we don’t understand is why councillors in Sunderland think they are worth more than their counterparts in Newcastle who do the same job.

“Sunderland Council needs to live within its means. That includes cutting back wasteful council spending like this.

“Unfortunately at the moment it seems to be a case of ‘do as we say and not as we do’ from Labour councillors who are in charge of Sunderland Council. If Newcastle councillors can manage with lower allowances, why can’t Sunderland?”

Local Lib Dems have also slammed Sunderland councillors’ ‘subsistence’ claims, which were 50 times higher than Newcastle’s last year. Sunderland City Councillors claimed £8,169.25 in food and hotel stays in 2014/15 compared to just £163.21 claimed in the entire year by Newcastle’s councillors.

Labour Councillors Michael Mordey (Hendon) and Paul Watson (Pallion) had the biggest subsistence claims in 2014/15 receiving £1492.95 and £1,122 respectively.