A second independent councillor in Northumberland has hit back at accusations of ‘paid posts for votes’, labelling them “black propaganda”.
Coun Paul Kelly, leader of the Independent group on Northumberland County Council, joined Ian Lindley in rubbishing Conservative boss Peter Jackson’s claims that members without party allegiances have taken paid positions in return for voting with the Labour administration.
He has also claimed the independents are being “rewarded on merit, talent and experience”.
Yet Coun Jackson is refusing to back down, claiming he can not remember a time Coun Kelly has voted against Labour, and highlighting his rival’s past membership of that party.
The Conservative leader initially triggered the row when he highlighted the fact the four independent members of the council all hold posts with allowances within the authority.
He argued the quartet had been offered the posts in return for siding with Labour in the council chamber, with the administration holding just under half the number of seats on the authority and the support of the independents potentially decisive in votes.
Yet both Labour and Coun Lindley, one of the independents, insisted there was no agreement over how the four would vote.
Coun Kelly said of Coun Jackson’s comments: “This is yet another example of the black propaganda regularly practised by a master of the art.”
He told how he had been offered his post as chairman of the council’s planning committee as a result of his experience in that arena, as well as roles as chairman of the local development framework working group and interim chair of standards.
Coun Kelly says the roles were offered in the knowledge “that I was already being paid a special responsibility allowance and could not be rewarded twice”.
The councillor added: “The other independents are all prepared to make positive contributions to the council for the good of the people of Northumberland and are being rewarded on merit, talent and experience.”
Yet Coun Jackson said: “It seems to be a fairly desperate justification from Coun Kelly about his support for the Labour administration at Northumberland County Council.
“I can not remember Coun Kelly voting against any proposals from the Labour administration including some proposals which have been shown to be very damaging to the residents of Bywell [the ward] which he represents.
“He has always been supportive of Labour’s teenage tax [recently introduced transport charges for students in post 16-education].
“It is no secret he has a long standing connection with Labour, in fact for many years he was a member of the Labour party.
“Perhaps it is not surprising that he has chosen to side with his Labour colleagues.”