Council dubbed ‘elitist’ by former town mayor

Penni Thorne AVDC'ac 25-05-10
Penni Thorne AVDC'ac 25-05-10

A FORMER mayor has warned that politicians who lose their day jobs could be forced out of public office if they face financial hardship.

Councillor Penni Thorne this week branded Aylesbury Town Council ‘elitist’ over its reluctance to offer expenses.

She says she is worried about losing her job as the charity she works for is facing a funding crisis – and it could mean she is unable to carry on as a town councillor.

Mrs Thorne said allowances paid to members on the town council for travel and correspondence costs, totalling around £15 a week, are classed as income by the government when allocating benefits and pensions.

Aylesbury Town Council is set to debate the call for expenses after Mrs Thorne raised the issue at the last full council meeting.

“The total allowance a year is around £1,000,” said Mrs Thorne.

“But if you’re not in work and you’re on benefits, the allowance is seen as an income and you end up paying out of your own pocket as a result.

“If I lose my job this will affect my pension, and I’ll have to decide whether to run my car, heat my house or eat.

“I just can’t do it. I rely on my car, having had two knee replacements.

“While I only live in Bedgrove I can’t attend council meetings without a car because the buses have stopped running by the time they have finished.

“People become councillors because they want to help their local area, not because they want to make money.”

And Mrs Thorne, who served as town mayor between 2008 and 2009, said travel costs could mount up for out-of-work politicians, stating: “If I volunteered for anything else, I’d expect to have my expenses paid.

“There should be an expenses system in place so that people who want to claim back for travel can.

“It would only come to around £2 or so to get me to town council meetings and back, but it would make a great difference to me.

“It’s elitist, and I thought we were past that.

“It’s an old-fashioned stereotype that councillors can only be those who are well-off.

“We are representing the whole community as a council, and if single parents or carers want to become councillors, we should be allowing them to.

“Because we are representing the whole of Aylesbury, we need to make sure we are representative of the whole of the diverse community which we have.”

No date has yet been set for the matter to be discussed by Aylesbury Town Council.