Councillors reject rise

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COUNCILLORS have voted to reject a rise in their basic allowance as plans that will save £130,000 a year were approved.

It was agreed to keep the basic allowance – received by all Hartlepool councillors – at £5,767 despite recommendations for a £250 rise from the council’s Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP).

Councillors backed an amendment put by the Labour Group to freeze the basic allowance and to only receive an annual increase when Hartlepool Borough Council staff do.

The basic allowance is the lowest in the North East, but a rise was recommended based on increased workloads and because members have not had a rise since April 2009.

However, councillors rejected the rise at a time when the council needs to make further savings of £20million.

There was criticism, however, that from May the leader of the council, who will also chair the finance and policy committee, will receive a special responsibility allowance (SRA) of £17,301 on top of the basic allowance.

That position will be filled by Labour Group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher.

Coun Akers-Belcher, said: “Whilst I accept there has been a shift in workloads and allowances are not positively comparable with other North East councils, it would be incorrect to increase the basic allowance.”

He added the SRA paid to the leader and chairs of licensing and planning committees, neighbourhood forums and the various policy committees reflect the “additional duties and responsibilities”.

However, Independent Labour councillor Jonathan Brash said under the old committee system, before the elected mayor, the leader of the council only took an allowance of £3,200 and said “the role has not changed”.

He called on the allowances for the leader and chairs of the policy committees to be put back into the council budget, but his motion was defeated.

Labour councillor Rob Cook said the leader’s allowance was 30 per cent of what Mayor Stuart Drummond was receiving, for the “same responsibility”.

There will no longer be any need for the elected mayor’s allowance of £58,135 and the overall number of SRAs will drop from 19 to 12, meaning an annual saving of about £130,000 as the SRA are linked to the basic allowance.

The savings will be ring-fenced in a reserve, until the council has consulted on the “merits” of introducing a “living wage” for staff.

Under the new system, the chair of council and chairs of the policy committees will all receive an SRA of £5,767.

The majority group leader allowance and secondary group leader allowance have been scrapped.