Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Comment on councillor allowances

At Cornwall Council today, elected members of the authority voted to accept the findings of an independent panel into councillor allowances for the next council (ie. May 2017 onwards).

The report from the Independent Remuneration Panel stated that the evidence presented to them showed, on average, councillors took 31.5 hours per week to carry out their basic duties.

They recommended that the basic allowance should therefore be £13,910 per annum, up from £12,250.

The report also included changes to the SRAs (Special Responsibility Allowances) paid to certain councillors for taking on additional responsibilities, such as being a Cabinet Member or chairing a committee.

I have already been some adverse comments on social media and elsewhere, and I would like to be clear that I did vote to accept the recommendations of the Panel.

Given the amount of work that Cornwall Councillors do, I do not think the basic allowance to be excessive.

I would also add that I do not like the term “allowance” as I work full-time as an elected representative and consider what I get paid to be my wages.

It is also the case that when the unitary authority was set up – and councillor numbers were reduced from 331 to 123 – councillor allowances were not properly agreed prior to the 2009 election. And, ever since, the issue has been a political football and councillors have twice voted down recommendations from Independent Remuneration Panels.

The reality is that if Councillors had accepted the original recommendations on allowances in 2010, there would have been no increase proposed for 2017 at all!

Speaking for myself, at the present time I receive the basic allowance and an additional SRA for chairing the Planning PAC (Policy Advisory Committee) of £6,000. My income (before tax) is therefore a little over £18,000 for which I spend 45 hours a week on council duties – though it is often significantly more.

Indeed, I can evidence various periods in my time as a councillor when I have worked for less than the minimum wage.

And ironically, the Panel has reduced the SRA for the PAC that I chair, and if was re-elected in 2017 and lucky enough to be appointed to the same or similar committee chair, I would actually be earning less in the future!

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