Tories hit out at £35k cost of political post

Coun Tony Williams
Coun Tony Williams
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Blackpool’s Tory leader has hit out at the appointment of a political assistant by the council’s ruling Labour group.

Ben Singleton has been recruited to the role which has an annual salary of £35,000.

The Conservative group voted against the proposal to appoint political assistants at a meeting of the council earlier this year.

Councils are allowed to allocate the posts to up to three political groups which have a minimum of 10 per cent representation in the council chamber.

Their role is to provide assistance to councillors to carry out the functions assigned to them.

But Coun Williams dubbed the appointment a ‘waste of money’.

He said: “We voted against the proposal but it was carried unanimously by Labour.

“Our argument was that it was totally unnecessary on a practical basis or actually needed at all.

“We especially pointed out the salary was a waste of public money that should not be spent on a political position to advise and assist any party for their own ends.

“Labour has gone ahead and appointed Ben Singleton.

“I think the appointment is a complete waste of public money.

“This position has been created to politically benefit the Labour Group in Blackpool and contributes nothing at all to the town’s needs or betterment.

“The good folk of Blackpool may be asking why they should be picking up the bill for the large salary Mr Singleton is being paid to run 
Labour’s campaign in the town.”

On Friday the council revealed it has to save £20m next year with the loss of 250 jobs in total.

Coun Maxine Callow said: “They could have kept two members of staff on with the money being spent on a political assistant.”

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn declined to comment on the issue.

But a report to councillors in July said: “Many councils employ political assistants within the framework of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 to support groups across the political spectrum.

“Such assistants work directly for the political groups, rather than as mainstream officers within the officer structure of the council.”

The report adds the role includes researching and analysing information on behalf of the
 group, preparing reports
and attending meetings of the political group, drafting policies
for the group leader on 
new initiatives, liaising with officers, other councils and their political groups, MPs and Euro MPs and national leadership.