Business group slams Stevenage council expenses

A business group has criticised Stevenage council for giving its members too much in allowances at a time when regeneration of the town centre is urgently needed.

Despite a five per cent reduction in allowances amounting to a �20,000 cut this year, the director of Stevenage-based business network biz4biz, said the �7,124 given to Stevenage councillors to cover their costs is excessive.

Adrian Hawkins compared the authority unfavourably with North Herts District Council, whose members get �4,500 – up from �3,798 last year.

“We really have to start asking how single party political dominance in the town has served its residents when Letchworth and Baldock shopping centres have all had expensive upgrades and the councillors in that area are paid almost half as much as those in Stevenage,” he said.

“North Herts Council need some congratulations for their frugality and relevant success. Sadly all Stevenage appear to want to do is make capital of public spending controls and headlines out of budget cuts. It certainly appears that some charity needs to begin closer to home if not the centre of budget control.”

But Stevenage Borough Council leader, Sharon Taylor said the project to redevelop the town centre is on a different scale to its neighbours.

“The Stevenage Town Centre Development Scheme is hugely more complex than the schemes at Letchworth or Baldock which are the kind of environmental improvements that Stevenage also benefited from four years ago, funded by the development of Asda.

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“Our Stevenage scheme is a multi-million pound rebuilding of the town centre with new shops and leisure facilities and therefore the planning phase is just reaching its conclusion. We are expecting the plans to come before the planning committee in June or July.

“Together with all the residents of Stevenage, we are looking forward to our town centre being rebuilt to be as exciting for the 21st century as the original development was back in the 1950s.”

She added that Stevenage member allowances are set by an independent panel and have been subject to a freeze for two years.

“A voluntary reduction of five per cent was made by all members this year to protect the funding for one of our voluntary sector partners,” she said.

Central Beds Council has the highest basic councillor allowance in Comet country at �10,995.60, down �224.40 (2 per cent) from last year.

The new rates came into effect on April 1.

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