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Hampshire County Councillor Keith House earns more than an MP
HAMPSHIRE’S highest paid county councillor has a bigger pay packet than MPs, the Daily Echo can reveal.
Liberal Democrat Keith House was paid almost £67,500 by holding five public paid positions in 2011-12.
His role as Eastleigh council boss is his main job. But he is also opposition leader on the county council and sits on three other bodies.
Mr House, 47, had more paid roles or “hats” than any other Hampshire councillor, according to new figures compiled by anticouncil tax group IsItFair.
The scale of his allowances have brought fresh protests from the group outraged at the way some elected councillors are professional politicians.
But Mr House, a full-time politician, said it was for voters to decide at the ballot box if he was worth it.
He said: “In Eastleigh, I have kept council tax down, have protected services, improved facilities and followed- up on case work. In Hampshire, I have kept the administration to account.”
Payments to 78 county councillors now cost taxpayers £1.9m a year.
As well as being paid £12,000 just for being members of the county council, most claim multiple allowances for also sitting on district councils, the fire and police authorities and other bodies, including New Forest National Park Authority.
And 40 county councillors have joined the generous pension scheme enjoyed by local government staff, guaranteeing them an income based on the allowances which they are paid as councillors.
Taxpayer-funded employer contributions to their pension pots cost £120,841 – pushing the cost of their total pay and pensions over the £2m mark.
Christine Melsom, Hampshirebased founder of IsitFair, said: “Many people seem to think their councillor does this job ‘pro bono’ but that could not be further from the truth.
“It is a job and they receive a salary and many of them also get a pension.”
As boss of Eastleigh council, Cllr House was paid £28,381 in allowances and expenses and he picked up £26,216 for his role as leader of the opposition on the county c o u n - cil. He received £12,500 for sitting on the boards of the former South East England Economic Development Agency (SEEDA), and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) which funds new affordable housing.
Mr House also netted an estimated £4,537 as deputy chairman of a Local Government Association (LGA) committee, an umbrella group for local authorities.
The father-of-four said his work at SEEDA and HCA were ministerial appointments unrelated to being a councillor while his LGA role gave him the opportunity to argue nationally for policies that would benefit Hampshire.
Excluding expenses, these five calls on the public purse bring his total to £67,471 – more than an MP’s salary of £65,738.
Meanwhile his partner of 12 years, Louise Bloom, an Eastleigh Borough councillor, collected £14,000 as one of Cllr House’s inner circle in the Cabinet.
Conservative Sean Woodward was paid £51,083 as a backbench county councillor, leader of Fareham Borough Council and a member of Hampshire Police Authority. He also runs a healthcare company.
Fellow Tory Mel Kendal was paid £49,575 as a Cabinet member of the county council, a member of New Forest District Council and Hampshire Police Authority. He is a self-employed investment consultant.
In total, the county council alone forked out £1.4m for councillor allowances and expenses in 2011-12.
The county froze councillor allowances for the third year running to save money but has not reduced them despite cutting services and jobs.
Peter Fleming, chairman of the Local Government Association, defended allowances, saying: “Providing financial support ensures that local democracy does not become the preserve of the privileged few who can afford to give their time for free.”