Cut allowances now

I FULLY expected that at some point a councillor, seeking to score a cheap point in connection with the free parking issue, would be silly enough to suggest I write a cheque to contribute towards it.

And, lo and behold, Councillor Dingemans has done just that in response to my comment that councillors could consider reducing the allowances they receive from Arun District Council in order to release funds to go towards Bognor Regis regeneration.

Councillors’ allowances are not expenses, which are paid separately and in addition.

Allowances are effectively a paid salary, and the idea behind them is to enable anybody to be a councillor without fear of loss of income from their ‘day job’.

Prior to the introduction of allowances the councils were dominated by the rich and/or retired, and many felt, justifiably, that this was wrong.

But the reality is the retired people are still there, suffering no loss of income from the long-gone day job, comfortably collecting their pensions AND the councillors’ allowances as well!

There is a strong argument it is morally questionable for these people to be taking this money from the council taxpayer, when they are suffering no loss of income through contributing their time to the community.

For this reason a few councillors refuse to take their allowances, or even expenses (and I was one of them) – if more did this, Arun’s budget book for this year would not contain a figure of £766,000 for member/committee support.

Councillor Dingemans receives allowances of £23,654 plus £1,803 expenses, and, I might add, a disc allowing him to park free of charge in any Arun District Council car park.

He is quoted in the Observer as claiming this sort of thing represents good value for money.

Having observed, over the years, a great deal of silly shenanigans and useless timewasting by certain district councillors, I question this.

The message is that we all write cheques every year to Arun District Council, and we expect that money to be used for the benefit of the residents of the district, not the councillors – 5,807 people signed a petition supporting the Civic Society, Chamber of Commerce, TBI, FSB and the town council’s call for some of that money to be spent on two hours’ free parking in Bognor Regis town centre car parks.

If he wants to be ‘good value for money’, the very least Councillor Dingemans can do is listen to the people of Bognor Regis and do what they ask for a change: not just lip service, which is what is happening now. Or alternatively he could donate some of the £23,654 towards giving us free parking.

Hugh Coster,

East Avenue, Middleton-on-Sea