Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 12:56 UK

Fire authority allowance up 350%

The Royal Berkshire Fire Authority (RBFA) has agreed to give its members a 350% allowance increase.

Councillors on the Conservative-led fire authority voted last week to raise it from £400 to £1,800.

But Liberal Democrat councillor Prue Bray, who is also on the authority, said she was "appalled" by the move.

The fire authority chairman defended the rise saying allowances for the 24 councillors were still "considerably less than the average basic allowance".

Ms Bray, deputy leader of the Lib Dem group on the fire authority, said: "I think it's absolutely ridiculous.

The basic allowance for RBFA members was less than half that of the lowest allowance paid by other combined fire authorities
Councillor Dr Paul Bryant

"We were appalled at the greed of the Tories, especially at this time of recession, when residents of Berkshire are struggling to keep their jobs and their homes."

She said nothing could be done about it because "they voted it through and the Conservatives control the fire authority and they've decided to award themselves".

Conservative councillor Dr Paul Bryant, chairman of the fire authority, said: "Whilst I acknowledge that this is a large percentage rise, this action has been taken because members' allowances have not been reviewed or increased since 2003/04.

"The basic allowance for RBFA members was less than half that of the lowest allowance paid by other combined fire authorities.

"Even after this rise, members are still paid considerably less than the average basic allowance - £1,800 as opposed to £2,480.

"The decision to increase members' allowances was not taken lightly and was agreed after much debate, on the basis that it is important that local representation should not be restricted to the well off."

"The increase in members' allowances requires an additional £25,000 above the existing budget.

"This is containable within the Fire Authority's overall finances and will not have a detrimental effect on any of Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service's operational or support activities."

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