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Council chairman refuses 'clothing allowance'
A COUNCIL chairman has surrendered her controversial so-called clothing allowance pending the outcome of a wide-ranging review of expenses, it emerged tonight (Monday, September 9).
Labour-led Durham County Council has faced repeated criticism over an annual allowance paid to its chairman and vice-chairman totalling £12,860, including from the Prime Minister David Cameron, who labelled it spending on the “Geordie Armani”.
A cross-party review of expenses launched by the council’s Labour leader Simon Henig in May is expected to report later this year.
But current chairman Pauline Charlton has confirmed she has refused the cash.
Councillor Charlton told The Northern Echo: “I decided not to accept it while the review was ongoing. I thought it was right and proper to suspend it.”
Her decision also applies to her vice-chairman, Coun John Robinson.
Both are still able to claim back expenses incurred while carrying out their civic duties.
Coun Charlton, who represents the Evenwood ward, near Bishop Auckland, said: “I don’t know what the future decision will be but for now we’re claiming expenses as we use them.”
Council chief have repeatedly insisted the £12,860 budget is a civic allowance, although The Northern Echo has seen an internal document email describing it as a clothing allowance.
As well as being council chairman, Coun Charlton is also serving as Mayor of Durham, a break with the tradition of having different people filling each role.
Labour said the switch would save hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, while Liberal Democrats accused Labour of politicising the 400-year-old mayoralty.
Coun Charlton, who lives 17 miles from Durham City, dismissed claims the combined role would be too onerous, saying she was coping with the workload and enjoying it.
“It’s a bit busy at times but the (council) chair was busy last year as well. It’s exciting,” she said.
Today, Coun Charlton attended a charity event in Pity Me and a dinner hosted by the Sue Snowdon, the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, and Durham Castle.
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