Labour councillor `will be paid pounds 1,000 for each meeting'

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The Independent Online
AN INNER London Labour councillor whose borough is crippled by strikes over budget cuts will receive pounds 1,000 for every council meeting he attends this year.

Lord Harris of Haringey, a former Labour council leader and architect of Labour's local government policies, has attended three out of 10 possible meetings since the beginning of the council year seven months ago. Following the May 1998 local elections the Labour majority voted that attendance allowances for councillors should be scrapped and replaced with a pounds 5,000-a-year flat rate expenses payment instead.

According to the opposition leader on Haringey council, Peter Forrest, Lord Harris, if he keeps up the current rate, would attend five meetings in the year. This would make his attendance allowance in effect pounds 1,000 a meeting.

Mr Forrest said: "This is the danger of trying to turn councillors into salaried employees where you pay a fixed amount regardless of how many meetings they bother to attend. Councillors should be recompensed for expenses incurred or any loss of earnings but it is difficult to see how these can apply when councillors are attending only a few meetings."

Lord Harris replied: "This is typical of Peter Forrest... I have just totted up the hours I have spent carrying out local government functions in the four weeks of November and it comes out to an average of 27 hours a week. At that rate that is less than the national minimum wage."

The accusation came as thousands of Haringey employees went on strike yesterday, closing schools and council services over a dispute about budget cuts and new contracts. A spokeswomen for the north London council, which has a pounds 23m deficit and is facing serious budget cuts, said that Mr Forrest was "just scoring a political point".