COUNCILLORS in Hyndburn have defended voting for "obscene" hikes in their expense allowances – including a £170 limit for a hotel room and £25 for dinner.
They approved a 49 per cent rise in their overnight stay allowance, while the evening meal "subsistence’’ rate was more than doubled from just over £10.
The increases, recommended by an independent panel and approved at Monday’s full council meeting, saw expenses rise to a maximum £145 for hotel rooms outside London, and a cool £170 in the capital.
But council leader Peter Britcliffe, who went to Downing Street last week, claimed the extra cost burden involved would be small as only he had made more than one overnight business trip this year.
He said: "We always look for the cheapest hotel rooms so I object to anybody trying to make a cheap political point. I went to London last week and the cost of my hotel was about £71. But if I had to go down in the summer that same room could have cost £240 because there’s such a great seasonal variation. Surely you wouldn’t expect the leader to camp out in a tent in Hyde Park."
He added: "Anybody who can find a meal for £10 in London should write a tourist guide because for that you’re lucky if you get a hot dog and a can of Coke."
Labour councillor Claire Pritchard blasted the hikes and instead proposed a five per cent across-the-board rise in line with inflation, claiming that equivalent London allowances for Burnley and Ribble Valley councillors were £91 and £121 respectively.
She said: "It’s just absolutely obscene."
But some opposition members were accused of hypocrisy by the council leader for allegedly claiming expenses they had previously voted against.
Independent councillor Malcolm Pritchard said: "To me it seems scandalous that we can put an evening meal up to £25 and approve all that money to stay in a hotel. Are all these shops that are shutting down going to say what a good idea it is for these councillors to be staying away?"
Councillor Bernard Dawson questioned the benefit to the borough of some of the London trips and urged members to be "sensitive".
He said: "People are feeling the pinch and we have got to be mindful what people think of us."