Cllr Helen Flynn, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat Group said: We feel that spending £25,000 on robes for District Councillors is out of step with the the financial hardship being felt by people across the district.
In our view it would be financially irresponsible,to put it mildly, for any councillor to ask local taxpayers to fork out thousands of pounds for ceremonial robes.
The ones we do wear are perfectly fit for purpose. And in any case, the more relevant question we should be debating, surely, is whether we need to hang on to a form of ceremonial robe that has more of a place in the past than in an modern 21st century council.
In response to concerns raised by Councillor Helen Flynn regarding Councillor’s robes at Harrogate Borough Council, the leader of the Council, Richard Cooper has responded saying that the item should have been removed fro the agenda and that there had been an administrative error.
Cllr Cooper said: I had already asked for this item to be removed from the proposed uses of business unit reserves.
In fact I have gone further and when the current robes reach the end of their life there will be no replacements except for the Mayoral robes. Due to an officer oversight, the Cabinet papers was printed with the original proposals, rather than containing the amendments.
Officers are quite at liberty to put forward whatever proposals they wish. As Councillors we are at liberty to approve or decline them. In this case I chose to remove that item – and another one pertaining to refurbishment of seating in the Council chamber – and instructed officers to do so prior to the meeting.
I informed my Cabinet colleagues and other Councillors that this did not form part of the proposals prior to the Cabinet meeting and we voted as such.
The Council’s monitoring officer and Head of Finance were also informed prior to the meeting.
Had Councillor Flynn chosen to contact me, or to have asked the Director of Corporate Affairs about the discussions prior to the Cabinet meeting, she would have known this to be case. She didn’t even attend the meeting to which she refers.
Cllr Flynn added: Cllr Philip Broadbank, Leader of the Lib Dem Group, always attends Cabinet meetings and he was interested in seeing if this item went through.
And it was passed by the Cabinet on the 17th, along with a whole number of other recommendations for use of business unit reserves.
It was therefore reasonable to assume that this item had been approved.
This is the normal channel for members to understand how resources are being spent.
It is not clear if other members of the Cabinet know about the amendments that had privately been agreed between the Leader and officers before the meeting. If this was not the case then the proposals must stand as clearly written in the papers, as they approved what was written in the papers, without amendments.