Rotherfield councillor Huw Merriman happy to give his allowance cash to charity
ROTHERFIELD district councillor Huw Merriman has set an unusual precedent by giving all his allowance to charity.
He has decided to use his £4,215 basic allowance as a Wealden District councillor and £3,445 as scrutiny chairman to support the less advantaged and the elderly in his community.
When the Courier asked his fellow councillors whether they would follow his example the majority rebuffed the idea – only one welcomed his decision.
Mr Merriman said: "I am in the fortunate position that I am in full-time employment and therefore drew no allowance for my first four-year term.
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"I have now decided for my second term I would prefer to draw the allowance in order to donate an equivalent sum for the upkeep of the Rotherfield churchyard and an existing Rotherfield charity.
"Councillors give very good value for money. I recognise that my paid employment as a lawyer allows me to donate all of my allowance to charity."
Out of the 13 councillors questioned on donating their allowance to charity, only three did not comment about Mr Merriman's move, including Jonica Fox, the council's chairman.
The majority, especially those who were in retirement, believed the allowance was paramount in covering their travel, food and stationery expenses as a councillor.
Brian Redman said: "I absolutely would not give it to charity. The amount we get paid as district councillors is a very small amount in relation to the amount of work we do.
"We have to have good people to come on our district council, we don't want them feeling put upon. We want to keep the standards up. "We want keen and able people in terms of the contributions and abilities they bring to the council."
Norman Buck, councillor for Maresfield, agreed and said: "Quite frankly it is a pittance for the amount of work we do."
But he did not reject completely giving it away to charity at some point in the future.
Dick Angel (Heathfield North and Central) said: "I would not give it away. The allowance I get for the amount of work I do on behalf of the community barely covers my expenses for doing the job. I give quite a lot of money to charity every year in other ways."
However, Helen Firth (Uckfield New Town) welcomed Mr Merriman's move and said: "If he is in a position to do that then that pleases me very much. If I was in a similar position I would be more than happy. Unfortunately, I am not."
John Carvey (Uckfield Ridgewood) said: "I think it's up to the individual. It depends on their circumstances. I know one or two if they do not get an allowance they can't afford to be a councillor."
Johanna Howell, community and voluntary sector portfolio holder, also stressed she gave to charity, and added: "I don't see it's any of your business. I don't personally believe in blowing one's own trumpet."
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