Coalition deal triggers row over allowances

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YORK Council Conservative group leader Ian Gillies yesterday insisted forming a new “coalition” was not an effort to hold on to allowances worth almost £17,000.

The Conservatives agreed the arrangement with Coun Sian Wiseman who quit the group earlier this month over a potential conflict of interest between family land interests and the group’s position on the city’s local plan.

The recent decision of an independent to join the Liberal Democrats had meant both parties had nine councillors.

By agreeing the “coalition”, the Conservatives remain the official opposition, entitling the group leader to a £10,500 allowance and the deputy leader to £6,300.

Coun Gillies said: “This formalises what was informal before – she was prepared to support us on everything except the local plan.

“Ten years ago I was earning £80,000 so getting £10,000 to do this is hardly robbing the bank.”

Coun Gillies insisted the coalition would ensure “effective opposition” to the Labour administration but it triggered a barrage of criticism.

Liberal Democrat group leader Keith Aspden said: “It is bizarre that a councillor clearly said there was a conflict of interest a couple of weeks ago, but now this seems to have disappeared.

“I think the Conservatives have some serious questions to answer. A councillor is either in a political group or is not.”

The move also came under fire from Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

He said: “York council tax payers could not be blamed for concluding that Coun Wiseman’s deal with her former colleagues is nothing but a marriage of political and financial convenience.

“It’s no wonder that public faith in politicians is so low when our elected representatives seem to be acting in their own interests rather than getting on with representing their communities.”