LABOUR group leaders have confirmed they do not support any rise in the basic allowance paid to councillors.
The Hartlepool Labour Group has spoken out after a Mail survey revealed an overwhelming 85 per cent of councillors that responded clearly stated they would be against such a move.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) is examining what impact reducing the number of councillors and changing ward boundaries has had and the panel is due to meet again before making recommendations.
At the time of the survey, senior Labour councillors said they wanted to wait before expressing a view until the IRP presents its findings.
But they have now issued a statement confirming their stance.
Hartlepool’s Labour Group said while workloads will increase after the number of councillors was reduced from 47 to 33, they are “confident” the new committee system of governance from May will “redress” the balance.
A statement read: “The debate around councillors’ allowances has now been the subject of much media attention for several months.
“It would also seem that the task set the ‘independent’ remuneration panel, by our council, has been somewhat prejudiced by personal opinion and pressure, so it is time to be decisive and set out the collective view of Hartlepool Labour Group.
“Hartlepool Labour Group does not support any rise in the basic allowance paid to councillors.
“Our core values, supported by the communities we represent across the town, are built on a foundation of fairness.
“With so much child poverty, unaffordable energy and heating bills, rent rises, hunger and homelessness it would be obscene to accept any rise no matter how small.”
Group leaders say the council’s current budget for allowances is £373,000 and that they will be proposing a saving in excess of £100,000 to guarantee a saving of £1m over the next 10 years.
The statement added: “This saving will go a long way in protecting services provided to our most vulnerable residents.”
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, Labour group leader, added: “In May of this year, the Labour Party in Hartlepool gave a commitment to save Hartlepool £1m over the next 10 years should the people choose, in the referendum, to move away from the mayoral model of governance.
“The Labour Group in Hartlepool will now enact that vision and ensure in excess of £100,000 is saved in Hartlepool for the next ten years.”
In the Mail’s survey, senior councillors including independent councillor Paul Thompson and Putting Hartlepool First leader Geoff Lilley said it would be “abhorrent” to even consider voting in favour of a rise when council staff are losing their jobs due to massive budget cuts.
The local authority, which has seen dozens of job losses and a pay freeze for staff in recent years, is faced with slashing £20m from its £90m budget over the next four years.
The Mail asked all elected members whether or not they supported a rise in the basic allowance of £5,767, that they all receive.
None of the councillors that responded to the survey said they were in favour of a rise.