Allowance plans are agreed during tense Hartlepool Council meeting

LEADER: Council leader Christopher Akers-Blecher and Joe Bradley
LEADER: Council leader Christopher Akers-Blecher and Joe Bradley

HARTLEPOOL councillors will see a rise in their basic allowance only if council employees get a pay boost first, it has been agreed.

Proposals by the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) that recommended a rise in the allowance from the current figure of £5,825 to £6,267 - a rise of £442 - was rejected by members.

Instead a Labour-backed amendment for councillors to only receive an increase if local authority staff are awarded one by Government was agreed, despite heavy criticism from some opposition members inside a tense council chamber.

Independent councillor Paul Thompson said it was “abhorrent” to even consider a rise for councillors of any kind given the ongoing budget pressures and job cuts. On July 10, more than 3,000 Hartlepool Borough Council staff and school support staff will stage a walkout over the Government’s offer of a rise of just one per cent.

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “I put forward that the Labour Group sticks by the principle of the resolution of April 2013 whereby elected members shall only receive an increase in their basic allowance in-line with that awarded to our staff, as and when their increase is confirmed by Government.”

But Coun Thompson said: “It is abhorrent we are thinking about any increase especially in the current climate.” He called for all special responsibility allowances (SRA) for committee chairman to be scrapped but it was rejected.

UKIP councillor George Springer said: “It is not so much about the amount, it is the principle when people are facing cuts.”

In a passionate speech Putting Hartlepool First (PHF) councillor David Riddle added: “We have reached a tipping point when it comes to reality, the reputation of this chamber is at an all-time low.”

Labour also proposed splitting the principal minority group leader allowance of around £3,400 (currently held by (PHF) between PHF, the Conservatives and UKIP, which was agreed by a majority.

It was also agreed the chairman of the audit and governance committee, currently Conservative group leader Ray Martin-Wells, should receive a 100 per cent SRA for that role - a rise of 30 per cent.

That brings it in line with the chairman of the various policy committees, who each receive an SRA of £5,825 on top of their basic allowance. Councillors can only receive one SRA each. Coun Martin-Wells declared an interest and didn’t vote on the issue. The IRP had also recommended halving the SRA given to the neighbourhood forums chairs but it was rejected in the Labour Group’s amendments.