As an act of courtesy I write to thank both Councillor Richard Millard, leader of EHDC, and Mr Andrew Kirk, chairman of EHDC’s Independent Remuneration Panel, for responding to my earlier letter relating to an increase in councillor allowances (East Hampshire editions, February 1).

Councillor Millard’s response explained the rationale behind the increases and placed emphasis on the amount of time district councillors dedicate to their chosen roles, in general about 12 hours a week and are expected to give 40 per cent of their time for free as well as giving up a sizeable portion of their working week to council duties.  

He also cited the importance of a democratic approach to achieving a council with a healthy and diverse cross section of the community, the need being to get the benefit of its experiences, opinions and understanding of the world.  

He also believes that, with an effective allowance system, the doors of democracy are opened for more people to take part in local issues. 

I found it slightly disappointing that the councillor made no reference to the low standard of some services that I cited in my earlier letter; poor standard of grass cutting, waste bin collections overlooked, badly maintained roads, the threat of recycle centres being closed, charges for services that were once free etc etc.

With 35 or so EHDC councillors all beavering away for at least some 12 hours a week, that’s a total of 420 councillor hours. Is it not reasonable, therefore, to think that services should be better than they are? I think they should be.

What I am about to suggest might ‘stir up the hornet’s nest’ but, having been a parish councillor, I believe that the value of any councillor should not be measured in terms of time devoted to a role but measured in terms of achievements.  

However, such an approach is impractical where allowances are concerned and it is the voters who decide who should and should not serve on a council, unless an individual is co-opted at some stage.

Mr Kirk, in his letter, was generous enough to explain fully the work that was undertaken by his two-person Independent Remuneration Panel. He even steered me in the direction of a 14-page review report, available on the EHDC website, that will probably aid my understanding and which I shall access and read in slower time.

Andrew Kirk did chastise me slightly for referring to his panel as ‘unspecified’, which he found baffling. The fact is, my original letter was in response to an article that appeared in the Post on January 11 stating the allowance recommendations had been put forward by a panel, with no details of the panel given. For that reason I used the term ‘unspecified’.  

He was also not quite clear on whether I considered councillors worthy of the increase in allowances. 

As partly covered in my paragraph 2 above, Councillor Millard gave sound reasons for the increase which I accept, but his wording did say that reduced remuneration would be a barrier for future cohorts, which indicated that generous allowances make it possible for some to serve the public but, for others, can also be as much an attraction as a desire to serve. 

However, I wonder just how many councillors meet the basic requirements in hours dedicated to their role, which is a sizeable challenge for those that work but far less so for those that are retired. This being the case, perhaps the former deserve a little more in allowances than the latter. Enough said, I think.

Robert Davis

Hawthorn Road, Horndean