The discussion turned to the question of whether it might be a positive move to pay expenses for childcare or similar care responsibilities. Is it fair, a few members asked, if parents with children should be financially impacted by having to fork out for baby-sitters while at town council meetings? There were nods of acknowledgement that perhaps a carer's allowance should be considered. So far so good.
As ever there was one loud voice who dared to utter the unutterable. ‘We shouldn’t pay any allowances to councillors’, he said. ‘We’ll attract the wrong type of people.’ Oh dear. He forgot to mention of course, that right now councillors are paid out-of-pocket allowances for their travel and meals, but presumably that doesn't count.
So there we have it. Maybe it's unfair to generalise, this was after all only one voice among a dozen. It does often seem though that the drift of old boys clubs like Ledbury Town Council is always to self-replicate, to do everything to fend off alternative voices, from alternative sections of society, never to encourage the wrong type of people into its ranks.
I say bring them in. A shot of new blood and fresh ideas would be a wonderful tonic to Ledbury’s body politic.
Note: many enlightened local councils, including Herefordshire Council, now pay ‘dependent carers allowance’ to their elected members to support child- and other care costs. Over a four year council term these expenses could mount up significantly, and make a councillor position prohibitively expensive for people in less affluent circumstances, and this is clearly unfair. Let’s be straight. Being able to afford it should never be a consideration in deciding whether to run for council office whatever type of person you are, rich or poor, Wrong or Right.