The Bickerstaffe Record

About me, Cotterill on the Council

Cyclists as a new minority?

04.29.08 | 2 Comments

 I was just filling in an expenses claim, and it occured to me that I’d not covered this matter on the blog and what with my new found blogging keenness, I’m getting right to it……….

The Council introduced its bike allowance for councillors this month, courtesy of a bit of moral pressure last year from me – i pretended to be utterly outraged that there is a handsome allowance (up to 48p a mile i think) for car drivers, but nothing for biking councillors.  There’s now a 30p a mile allowance for bikes, and as I stated publicly in the Council chamber when the scheme was agreed, I’ll be putting anything I make (a few hundred quid a year) from riding to and from Council meetings to good local causes, principally environmentalish.  After all, now that I have established some equity on the bike/car thing, I acknowledge that I don’t actually spend any money, other than the odd inner tube, bike oil etc, on riding, so it seems a bit strange to claim as it an expense.  In any case, I’d rather have it as a little local pot than see it go back into the Tory coffers to be spent on something silly like the Chairman’s car (yes, I know the finances don’t quite work out like that but it makes me feel appropriately righteous).  any ideas on how a few hundred quid moght be spent appropriately are welomce, though I reserve the right to make utterly unilateral judgments on where it goes, as its my pedalling that brought it in.

 The thing that really intrigued me, though, about the decision made by Council to start up this scheme was the report to Council that accompanied it.  The relevant excerpt reads:

“One specific matter we have been asked to consider is the payment of a mileage rate for Members who use bicycles when on Council business…..We have mentioned in some of our previous reports our concern that the Members’ Allowances Scheme should not discourage people from seeking to become elected representatives and, wherever possible, should provide encouragement for those groups of people less represented on local authorities.”

 What they seem to be saying here is that because I happen to ride a bike, notwithstanding the fact that I am about as white, middle aged, male )and maybe even middle class) as they come, I’m a minority, and that if they get a few more people on bikes to meetings they’ll have done their job in ensuring balanced representation.  Astonishing stuff, but perhaps not so astonishing when you consider that the Independent Review Panel set up to review allowances is made up of three – no surprise – middle aged, middle/upper class white people who don’t happen to ride bikes.

 I know what I’ll be suggesting whne the next Review Panel is up for appointment.


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