Cabinet considered the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP)’s report on the review of Members’ Allowances as presented by Councillor Dickinson. Cabinet Members had considered the report and were of the view that in the current financial climate it was not appropriate to make large changes to the scheme at this stage, but to continue with the current arrangements of linking with the pay increases awarded to staff.
Under standing order 34 Councillor Joyce addressed Cabinet on the hourly rate of remuneration, and against the removal of the Opposition Deputy Leader SRA proposed by the Independent Panel which would also decrease the number of allowances paid to opposition party members. He drew attention to the need for some councillors to be remunerated as they were not retired but were working with young families.
Under standing order 34, Councillor Parish drew attention to the Independent Panels recommendation for changes to the Opposition Leader and Deputy allowances. He suggested that the increases could be funded by being taken from other position’s allowances.
Under standing order 34 Councillor Moriarty endorsed the comments made by the Independent Panel and asked Cabinet to consider when the full review would take place.
Councillor Middleton commented that it was not the time to review the allowances fully when people were struggling. He drew attention to the number of hours worked by Cabinet members along with the responsibility placed upon them, when he was also working full time. He considered it should be looked at across the board and when it was time to make changes to do so together.
Under standing order 34 Councillor Morley drew attention to the fact that he and a number of other opposition members spent a lot of time on Council business.
Councillor Blunt agreed now was not the time to make a lot of changes and agreed that consideration had to be given to attracting people to stand for the Council.
Councillor Kunes confirmed he felt now was not the time to make many changes, but the issues needed to be addressed.
Councillor Dark acknowledged the delay in the report being prepared due to the additional workloads surrounding covid and thanked the Panel for the report. He referred to the volatile nature of the global and national financial situation. He referred to the 2.5% in the budget in line with staff rises which was the recommendation set out in the report which he supported, and acknowledged that now would not be the time to make sweeping changes to the system as working arrangements for councillors had changed considerably in recent times and it wasn’t known if they would be permanent.
Councillor Dickinson commented on the need to look in the round how councillors worked and the ability to attract candidates in the future. She responded regarding the hourly rate used which was the local rate set in Dec 2020, which had to be discounted by 20% to take into account the voluntary element of the role. She reassured members that an Independent Panel Review could be carried out at any time.
RECOMMENDED: 1) Having considered in detail the recommendations of the IRP, Cabinet considers that there two issues for not making significant changes Members’ Allowances for the year commencing 1 April 2021. Firstly, the current financial climate is not propitious for increasing the overall sum paid to Councillors, which is the effect of the IRP’s review. Secondly, there have been significant changes to working practices as a result of the pandemic, with Councillors seeing a wholesale change of having to carry out all of their duties from home, with all meetings conducted viaonline means, i.e. Teams and Zoom. This has resulted in what might amount to permanent changes to working practices and therefore a review would be better conducted when those revisions have been fully evaluated.
2) That existing allowances be increased in line with the inflationary increase of the officers’ pay award, effective from 1 April 2021.
3) In accordance with the Regulations, Cabinet recommends that allowances for a maximum period of the next 3 years commencing 2022/23 should continue to be indexed in line with the officers’ pay award. This is in compliance with the Regulations. An IRP may be called at any time should the need arise or be otherwise appropriate but in any case will be called no later than autumn 2024 to conduct a further review and to report its findings in sufficient time to allow a revised scheme to be approved by Council, in accordance with the regulations, to come into effect on 1 April 2025.
4) That, subject to receiving Council approval, the pecuniary implications to be paid in the current financial year.
reason for Decision
To comply with the requirements of The Local Authorities (Members’ Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003.