Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I'm just too cheap!!

Southern Daily Echo: Cllrs Keith House and Louise Bloom claim £80,000 from taxpayers
By Simon Carr

IS THIS the highest paid couple in Hampshire public life?

Councillors Keith House and Louise Bloom have been pulling in almost £80,000 of taxpayers’ cash by holding seven paid public posts between them.

New figures listing Eastleigh Borough Council’s expenses and allowances show top earner Lib Dem Mr House total creeping towards £60,000 a year.

That makes him Hampshire’s highest paid councillor – earning more than the £54,150 that Hampshire county and New Forest councillor Mel Kendal was paid in 2007 before pressure mounted for him to shed one of his lucrative posts.

As leader of Eastleigh council Mr House gets £28,107 in expenses and allowances, almost double that of most of his colleagues.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg as he picks up £17,567, excluding expenses, for his responsibilities as Lib Dem environment spokesman on Hampshire County Council.

But his county council allowance will increase by a further £9,000 this year as he has taken on the role of Lib Dem leader on the authority.

He also got a further £2,865 as a member of the fire authority and £640 for working on the South East England Regional Assembly planning committee.

He pulled in cash from the South East England Development Agency (Seeda), although this year’s figures were unavailable, last year this amounted to £8,316. These five calls on the taxpayers’ purse brings his total pot of cash in 2008/09 to an estimated £57,485.

Meanwhile, his partner of nine years Louise Bloom is also getting a hefty amount of taxpayers’ money.

As one of Cllr House’s inner circle Eastleigh’s cabinet member for environment pulls in the fifth highest amount of the borough’s 55 councillors taking £15,865 and a further £6,380 in her role as deputy leader of the South East England Regional Assembly.

This brings her personal tally to £22,245 on top of her own job – working 30 hours a week as an advocacy project manager for charity Solent Mind The pair share a home in Hedge End.

Cllr House, Lib Dem, said: “I took a pay cut when I went in to public office and I was happy to do it because I think I have something of value to offer and the public obviously agree as they keep electing me.

“This is a trivial story, I don’t think the public are interested in councillors’ train fares.”

Fellow Lib Dem Cllr Bloom said: “I’m glad our expenses are published but mine are very boring, no moats or duck ponds I’m afraid.

“If I am happy to do ridiculous hours to take on these roles I should be free to.

“I work extremely hard for Eastleigh Borough Council as well as holding down a nearly full-time job. Nobody could accuse me of not doing my duty – I think I give good value for money.”

Cllr House, who has no other job, this year stepped down from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority and Seeda and The South East England Regional Assembly was abolished.

Taxpayers’ Alliance campaign director, Mark Wallace, said: “Local taxpayers will naturally be concerned that some councillors are claiming such large amounts.

“From the lower amounts others are spending it is clearly possible to do the jobs without running up massive bills.

Councillors need to tighten their belts.”

----------End of report---------------

Cllr Clifford says:

Conservative Councillors here in Empress cost you less and give you more. We also have a policy of ensuring we do not wear too many 'public' caps, so here you do not have a County Councillor that is also a Borough Councillor. This way you get more Councillors for your money too.

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