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Group meeting is a cosy meal for council couple Mike Le Surf and Julie Morrisey

By Brentwood Gazette  |  Posted: June 27, 2012

Mike le Surf and Julie Morrisey

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ROMANTIC music, Italian wine and spaghetti bolognese, tactics and the tenets of modern socialism discussed by candlelight.

They are married, they live together and Mike Le Surf and his wife Julie Morrisey both represent the Labour Party on Brentwood Borough Council.

But according to the council's Conservative leader Louise McKinlay, the couple should discuss their group's activities at home over dinner, rather than charging the taxpayer for the pleasure.

Mrs McKinlay, who represents Hutton North, spoke out after the council confirmed that Mr Le Surf will receive an annual allowance of £2,632.59 in his role as "minority group leader".

Under the council's constitution, an elected member can give the authority written permission to forego all or part of their allowance.

Mrs McKinlay told the Gazette: "I don't have a problem with allowances for opposition group leaders per se.

"I think the question is more how two councillors can constitute a group?

"Most people would call it a conversation between two people rather than a group meeting."

Mrs McKinlay, who receives annual allowances totalling £19,037.05, continued: "To receive an additional taxpayer-funded allowance to have that conversation is, in my view, wrong – especially when in this case, they could have that discussion in the comfort of their own home over a spaghetti bolognese.

"It's hard to see what the additional expense or input as group leader is that justifies the extra allowance."

When asked if she thought Mr Le Surf should reconsider claiming the allowance, she replied: "That's for his conscience."

David Kendall, the leader of the council's majority Liberal Democrat opposition group, agreed.

Mr Kendall, who receives annual allowances totalling £10,953.59, said: "I am surprised that Mike is taking the allowance because there are only two of them.

"Technically, they do constitute a group under the council's constitution, but I am still surprised that he took it."

Mr Kendall, who voluntarily cut his majority opposition group leader's allowance by five per cent in May, added: "I think he should reconsider taking it."

Mr Le-Surf, who represents Brentwood South, noted that members' allowances were set by an independent panel and said he was simply following its recommendations as to what he should receive.

"I haven't got a problem with the system as it stands," he said.

Labour group meetings are, he said, held in a formal setting at the Town Hall and not over a spaghetti bolognese at his marital home.

When asked if he planned to follow Mr Kendall's advice and reconsider his decision to receive the allowance, Mr Le Surf replied: "I wouldn't take David Kendall's advice on a number of issues and this is one of them."

He added: "Louise was quite happy for her colleague Michael Golding to take his allowance even though he moved out of the borough a year ago.

"Maybe she wants to take a look at her own group before she starts having a go at the Labour group."

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  • Nyiro  |  July 01 2012, 10:08AM

    I was incensed that a council leader would lower herself to make such a pointless, but hurtful personal attack on two of the hardest working people I have ever met. Anyone who knows Mike and Julie know that everything they do is about helping the people of Brentwood and I bet they devote more time and energy to this than most at the town hall, which would perhaps explain why the Labour party is the second largest party in Brentwood and growing stronger. After this personal attack I hope more people will see the Tories for the hypocrites that they are and perhaps Louise should spend more of her "free" tIme looking at what really is upsetting the people of Brentwood taxpayers money being wasted on "booze, soft drinks and soirees" Gazette 2012

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  • Nanniki  |  June 28 2012, 6:44PM

    Trust me, there's nothing 'romantic and cosy' about socialism - this failed, cankered, evil political philosophy saw more than 100 million murdered in the 20c.

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  • JustMikey  |  June 28 2012, 7:41AM

    Butt out McKinlay! I imagine being the minority group it must be that much harder to represent his ward. What an inappropriate target for your mischief making comments..

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  • ericwatts  |  June 27 2012, 8:06PM

    Dear Sir I find it surprising and disapointing that the Council Leader should criticise a colleague in this manner. All hard working people need to have a healthy work life balance and that includes knowing what work can be taken home and that which should stay at the workplace. Councillors should receive the appropriate expenses for the job that they do. It is not relevant whether or not they are married, nor to whom. Yrs Sincerely Dr E Watts

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