12:10am Tuesday 5th March 2013
By Stuart Arnold
A COUNCIL criticised for paying its members a “clothing allowance” amounting to more than £12,000 a year says it will look again at the payments.
Durham County Council said the allowances paid to its chairwoman Linda Marshall and vice-chairwoman Pauline Charlton were “under review”.
The council has been criticised by both Liberal Democrats and council tax payers over the allowances –which The Northern Echo revealed on Saturday – especially in the light of the huge budget cuts it is having to make.
A spokeswoman said: “Although the budget for next year has been approved, the leader of the council has been clear that all allowances and expenses are being looked at.”
Asked if the council could provide details of what items Coun Marshall had bought in the last 12 months using the allowance, the spokeswoman said: “We are not able to provide a list of spending as requested as the allowance is paid direct to the chair[woman].”
The allowance, which the Labour-run council claims is not just for clothes, is subject to tax and national insurance.
Under current arrangements Coun Marshall receives an annual clothing allowance of £8,580 and her Labour colleague Coun Charlton £4,280.
Both members already receive a basic allowance and a special responsibility allowance.
According to the council’s website Coun Marshall and Charlton are the civic and ceremonial heads of the county and have a range of responsibilities.
Their posts are also described as “ambassadorial, ‘flying the flag’ for County Durham within the county, in neighbouring authorities and beyond”.
In a further development the Echo understands furious animal rights campaigners contacted the council to complain after pictures of Coun Marshall in a fur coat were published.
A Facebook protest group was also hastily set up calling for “funding for fur coats to be stopped”.
In a statement Coun Marshall said the coat was not real fur and was a personal purchase which “cost around £30 in the sales”.
She said: “I am an avid animal lover and would never wear real fur.”
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