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Council leader and MP clash in new row over their allowances

Hyndburn's top two politicians have clashed again over their allowances claims.

Hyndburn's top two politicians have clashed again over their allowances claims.

Council leader Peter Britcliffe has hit out at MP Graham Jones for claiming £4,225 in backdated county hall allowances – five months after pledging to waive them.

Coun Britcliffe, who earns £43,000 a year from council-related matters, has faced criticism for responding to a proposed pay cut with, ‘I still have to live’ in an email.

The council leader earns £25,000 from Hyndburn Council, £10,000 from Lancashire County Council, £3,000 from the Lancashire Fire Authority and £5,000 in incurred expenses.

At the full council meeting Labour Coun Clare Pritchard read out a letter from a Hyndburn resident, accusing Coun Britcliffe of a ‘lack of sensitivity’ and arrogance over the email, which he admitted sending.

But he replied: "To play gesture politics was, in my view, contemptible," and added that he worked hard and was value for money.

After being elected to Parliament last May, Mr Jones indicated publicly he would keep his county hall seat for a year – albeit without claiming his basic allowance.

But last November he started claiming the £845 a month again.

And county hall accounts show that, on November 26, he was paid just under £4,225 - covering his November allowance plus the four months from June in which he did not claim.

Coun Britcliffe told the meeting: "If you want to understand what token gestures are, that’s the sort of thing I’m talking about."

Mr Jones, who was not at the meeting, told the Observer he started claiming the allowances again because of the complex automated charging system for things like parking, mileage and leaflet costs.

He said: "I’m getting these paper invoices chasing me up all the time so I’ve decided to take the allowances. I’ve done this reluctantly.

"It was not my first choice, but I’ve been put under pressure by the system and the bureaucracy that’s been created around not taking them." He added he was planning to make donations to Peel projects and also to an African school with any allowance money left over.

He also pointed out that as a county councillor in 2009/10 he claimed almost £300 less than Coun Britcliffe on mileage and did not claim a penny in subsistence or carers allowance, despite having a young daughter.

Mr Jones said: "I’ve always tried to do the right thing and take the absolute minimum. I’m not going to take lessons from him."

In its budget the Labour group proposed a cut in leader’s allowance of 7.5 per cent, plus the scrapping of certain special responsibility payments to committee members.

Coun Bernard Dawson said: "My view is that we pay ourselves too much as an authority.

"If you compare us to other authorities we’re only a small authority."

But Coun Britcliffe replied: "If you want to take a reduction in allowances all you need to do is put it in writing. You can do it privately without anyone knowing."

 
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