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Council announces independent inquiry into former leader's secret £10,000 pay rise

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COUNCIL leader Tony Newman has announced an independent inquiry into his predecessor's secret £10,000 pay rise.

Cllr Mike Fisher stepped down as leader of the Conservative group on Saturday after the Advertiser revealed he had claimed an extra £10,000 in allowances for 2013/14.

The Shirley councillor said he had claimed the money "in the interests of my family" after several years of "a reduction in real terms year on year" in his allowances.

He apologised for failing to inform the public.

The pay rise had been recommended by an independent body in 2010/11 and although the then Conservative cabinet declined it at the time, they expressly included a clause that would allow them to claim back pay at a later date.

While it is not thought that Cllr Fisher broke any law or regulation by asking for the increase in January this year, Cllr Newman has set up an inquiry to investigate the matter.

It will be chaired by former teacher Anne Smith, the principal of John Ruskin College until 1999, and the independent chairman of the council's Standards Committee.

The inquiry is expected to present its recommendations to the council by November.

Cllr Newman said: "This inquiry is not about members' allowances per se. It is about asking the fundamental question: 'How was the former leader of the council able to take £11,000 of public money without informing the public?"

"We have a duty to the public – the people who pay our wages – to ask these very legitimate questions.

"As a new administration we have already made significant and much needed changes to the constitution. This includes changing the members allowance scheme at the first business meeting of the full council.

"In short, we are a council that takes openness and transparency extremely seriously, and, I'm pleased to sat, that after consulting with colleagues, members' allowances will now be published monthly."

Four other Conservative councillors - O'Connell, Vidhi Mohan, Steve Hollands and former Waddon councillor Simon Hoar - admitted inquiring about claiming allowances retrospectively.

In a joint statement released on Saturday the four said they now accepted that claiming the money would have been "completely inappropriate".

Cllr Tim Pollard, currently deputy leader, is expected to succeed Cllr Fisher as the leader of the Conservative group in Croydon. 

Council announces independent inquiry into former leader's secret £10,000 pay rise


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