Allowance rise ‘out of question’

Councillor Geoff Lilley. Picture by FRANK REID
Councillor Geoff Lilley. Picture by FRANK REID

THE leader of Hartlepool’s newest political party said it is “out of the question” to even consider a rise in allowances for councillors.

Councillor Geoff Lilley, leader of Putting Hartlepool First, said civic leaders have to show an example in the current economic climate which will see Hartlepool Borough Council slashing up to £20m from its £90m budget over the next five years.

Coun Lilley’s comments were made in their official submission to an independent panel which is considering councillor allowances in Hartlepool.

He has also called on the process to be “open and transparent”.

The 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.

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.

Coun Lilley, Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher and Conservative group leader Ray Wells have been asked to submit written evidence focusing on the volume, complexity and responsibility of councillors since the changes ahead of the next meeting in August.

In the submission, seen by the Mail, Coun Lilley, said: “Over recent years Hartlepool Council has made many of its workers redundant, in our view it would be out of the question to even think of increasing councillors allowances.

“Every pound matters and it is incumbent upon civic leaders to set an example.

“It is up to those leaders to acknowledge the fact that this town cannot afford any increase in councillor’s allowances especially in the current financial situation.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “Our submission to the independent remuneration panel will be a factual response based on what impact there has been on councillors since the numbers were reduced from 47 to 33.

“Whether they should go up, come down or remain the same is a decision for full council once we have heard the recommendations from the independent panel.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said the group was still working on its submission and would reserve judgement.

Meanwhile, Coun Wells said: “We are still consulting with residents and members of the group.

“We have not yet put forward our submission to the IRP.”

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.

It was Coun Wells who called for a review of the mayor’s special responsibility allowance.

Mayor Drummond picks up £22,734 for his police authority chairman’s commitments.

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

Speaking after the last meeting in June, IRP members said their current focus is on the basic and special responsibility allowances of councillors.