The controversial link to good causes(February 14, 2014)
Warminster councillor Pip Ridout has walked the fine line between being a leading member of the Conservative run unitary Wiltshire Council and standing up for her principles when local taxpayers are asked to dip into their pockets.
The west country local authority made national headlines and drew public criticism from a government minister for voting its cabinet leader, cabinet members, and other leading councillors a twenty-two percent increase in their special responsibility allowance.
An internet petition gathered a huge backing twice forcing the leader of the council Cllr. Jane Scott to agree to a meeting for all councillors to vote.
There were allegations by some members of 'dirty tricks' about the timing of one of them at Christmas.
A new year visit citicism by Eric Pickles MP during a visit to Wiltshire put the issue back in to the headlines.
The minister arrived to hear outrage locally about the timing of the increases. Hundreds of job losses announced to council staff by Cllr. Jane Scott.
Cllr. Ridout believed it was right to accept a one percent increase in the basic allowance but stood firm against the special hike for a select few.
The Warminster west ward member has recently accepted the decision by the majority of councillors while still standing firm.
Predominantly Conservative and Lib Dems voted fo the raise against the efforts of others led by Independents Terry Chivers and Jeff Osborn.
'I have accepted but given to local charities the increase and back-dated sum for being chairman of licencing', writes Cllr. Ridout in a letter published in the Wiltshire Times (Friday 14th February).
'I thought 22 per cent was too much.'
The veteran councillor has given the disputed cash to local charities in Warminster including the food bank and national good causes like Help for heroes.
In the letter there is a barb in the tail from the councillor that is also well-known and expected among locals in Warminster when she speaks out.
'There are many other councillors who have not accepted or given back and I deplore their 'holier than thou' attitudes., 'adds Cllr. Ridout.
Some of the Liberal Democrats and Independents are just hypocritical having voted against, then taken, their increases'.
"I admire Pip's handling of this issue especially as her letter appears in the same issue of the Wiltshire Times which headlines on the front page a proposal to cut funding for the Warminster Link scheme," says Cllr. Paul Macdonald.
"I am an unpaid town councillor and my election pledge last year was that I would only accept enough money to cover loss of earnings and travel expenses if I had also been elected to the unitary authority," says Paul.
"It will be interesting to see how many others follow Pip's lead!"