Spotlight on council allowances

LEADERS of the three political groups on Hartlepool Council have been invited to give evidence as part of an ongoing review into councillor allowances.

Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, Conservative group leader Ray Wells and group leader of Putting Hartlepool First, councillor Geoff Lilley, have been asked to speak at a meeting in August.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) was set up to look at members’ basic allowance and also the mayor’s allowances after his appointment as chairman of Cleveland Police Authority.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Email the newsdesk or telephone the newsdesk on (01429) 239380.

The IRP is looking at what impact reducing the number of councillors from 47 to 33 in the recent election will have on the basic allowance of £5,767, which is the lowest allowance in the North East.

Speaking after the latest meeting on June 7, panel members said their current focus is on the basic and special responsibility allowances of councillors.

It has now emerged that group leaders and individual councillors will be asked to submit written evidence focusing on the volume, complexity and responsibility of councillors since the changes.

The IRP is a group of lay people assembled by the local authority to advise on levels of allowances.

The meetings are being held behind closed doors, but the findings and any recommendations will be published at a future full council meeting.

In a letter sent out to councillors, seen by the Mail, group leaders are invited to present their oral evidence at a meeting in August.

Chris Little, the council’s chief finance officer, said: “The IRP wish to invite individual group leaders to attend the IRP meeting on August 22 to present the written evidence and answer any questions the IRP may have.”

The five independent councillors have also been contacted.

A further IRP meeting has been scheduled for August 24 to review the evidence before determining any recommendations to full council, or a further meeting could be scheduled.

Speaking after the June meeting, John Taylor, chairman of the IRP, said: “The panel had a very productive meeting and we are focusing at the moment on the basic allowance and special responsibility allowances for councillors.”

Evidence presented to the IRP showed Hartlepool councillors have the lowest basic allowance in the North East.

Each of the 33 councillors, which represent approximately 2,787 residents, receive the basic £5,767 allowance.

Middlesbrough councillors, who represent 2,889 residents, receive £6,130 while councillors in Stockton, who represent 3,460 residents, receive £9,300.

In Durham there are 126 councillors representing approximately 4,090 residents and they receive £13,300.

It was Conservative group leader Ray Wells who called for a review of the mayor’s special responsibility allowance.

Mayor Drummond picks up £19,940 for his police authority chairman’s commitments along with the £8,375 that all authority members receive on a yearly basis.

He receives a special responsibility allowance of £58,135 for his role as town mayor, as well as the basic allowance.