FLOUNDERING Barnet Council leader Lynne Hillan claims backing down on the allowances increase will improve consultations with residents over “difficult decisions” in the future.

Amidst widespread public and political condemnation, Councillor Hillan announced today that the council will be asked to reconsider the proposals to increase allowances for cabinet members.

She said she and senior party colleagues have been “listening carefully” to the public's reaction, despite constantly praising the changes that were voted on in July.

No party member, other than Councillor Kate Salinger, who abstained on the vote, has come out in opposition to the plans, although a statement from Cllr Hillan claims they have taken on board the criticism.

She said: “There will be many difficult decisions about the future of the council to be taken over the coming months. We need to consult widely and take residents with us on those decisions.

"I have spent the last fortnight speaking to colleagues and it has become clear that we simply can't have the conversations we need to have with residents about the future of the council, our services and the decisions that need to be made, with this debate about allowances going on.

“There are times when leadership is about action and there are times when it is about listening. I have listened and I am acting.”

And she appears to have further backtacked by setting out a tailored scheme for the authority, which she previously stated was not possible.

The Tory party, minus the abstention from Cllr Salinger, voted to adopt a new, independently recommended remuneration package. And in a subsequent interview, Cllr Hillan said the only options for an allowance scheme were to continue with the unpopular internal scheme or follow the guidelines set out in a report to London Councils.

She said last month: “There are all sorts of other things you can do, but basically we had the internal scheme we had and we had the London scheme. There is no another scheme, that is it. You can't play around with things, those are the choices we have got.”

But Cllr Hillan is now proposing a scheme that partly reverts to the original scheme, but rules out multiple allowances and the increases for cabinet members, and could result in a £95,000 cut to the allowances budget.

She said: "The previous allowances scheme was much criticised and I have no doubt that it was in need of change. Many of the reforms we made should stay, not least for the sake of transparency.

"But I also appreciate that many residents are unhappy that cabinet members' allowances could increase when service budgets face reductions.

"Residents have made it clear that they expect elected members to set an example to other parts of the council.”

The review of the scheme will be put before the full council when it meets on September 14.