Opinion: ‘This is our money... spend it wisely!’

The PT’s Peterborough Unlimited campaign is highlighting issues faced by the disabled community in Peterborough. Leading campaigner Julie Fernandez is writing a regular column as part of that campaign...

Campaigner Julie Fernandez.
Campaigner Julie Fernandez.

When I read the article in the PT headlined ‘Peterborough city councillors approve their pay rise despite objections’ regarding the full council meeting on January 26, when they voted to approve an increase to their pay,

I was angry.

The increase is not by much, but for me it’s the principle.

Why can’t our councillors be more like Jacinda Ardern, the leader of New Zealand, who in 2020 announced that she and people in her government would take a 20% pay cut for six months to show support for the struggle that her people were facing.

To me, that shows honour and respect that I can truly get behind.

It shows that we are all one and in the same boat.

PCC is in financial dire straits and because of that they are having to cut back on a range of services that we desperately need, for example care for disabled and elderly people, to name but a few.

The Conservatives have been in power locally for 20 years. At what point will they admit they are the ones who have been in control of where the money has gone and how it has been spent and therefore need to take responsibility.

The excuse that Westminster has cut the budget to Peterborough only goes so far and for so long.

However, there is another side to the story. Like it or not, we need local councillors, we need people who are willing to give up their time to work hard for us.

How do we encourage more people to take up the role, especially people who are younger, or have a disability, or from another protected characteristic so that the voices of the many are heard and respected, rather than just the few.

The money that councillors voted an increase for isn’t a wage, it’s an allowance.

It pays for a whole range of things like printing leaflets, travel to and from the many hours of meetings and sub meetings they have to attend, especially if they want to do the job well, and for many other things that are expense led and have to be paid for.

Granted there are all sorts of other allowances councillors get for extra groups that they sit on, and work that they do, and having an allowance to do that is, in my view, acceptable.

Many of the 60 councillors at PCC work either part- or full-time to bring in a wage and have families they need to support. If they weren’t given an allowance, then I suspect there wouldn’t be any councillors.

It takes up a lot of your time to be a councillor especially if you do it right and give it the respect it deserves.

Like so many situations in life I can see the value in both sides of the argument.

I just wish there was less political wrangling going on between the councillors and parties, and more concentration on the job in hand, which is to represent us, the local people and find the middle ground where they can come together to make it work for us, after all it is our money that they are spending.