Councillors turn down proposed rise in allowances as ‘inappropriate’
County Durham councillors have overwhelmingly rejected a report suggesting a 1% increase in allowances.
This week, full council discussed allowances for 2019/20 following recommendations from the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP).
If approved, the scheme would have seen basic allowance for councillors rise by £133 per year – from £13,300 to £13,433.
It comes a time when council bosses face increased demands on children’s services and a potential £19million being cut from its public health grant.
Under current predictions, the council also needs to save nearly £40million over the next four years.
However, the council’s Constitutional Working Group (CWG) called for the proposed rise in allowances to be scrapped after looking at evidence.
And today the recommendations were rubber-stamped by councillors at Durham County Hall.
Durham County Council leader Coun Simon Henig said: “As chair of the CWG I thank members of the IRP for their work and recommendations on the members’ allowances scheme.
“Although the panel recommended a 1% increase, which would have been the first increase for 10 years, the CWG felt that the current scheme should be continued into 2019/20, with no changes made.”
Coun Amanda Hopgood, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, also welcomed the plans.
“I would like to emphasise what Coun Henig said in thanking the independent panel for considering a rise, which would have been the first in 10 years,” she said.
“However, given the financial situation that both the country and council still face it would be inappropriate.
“And I would recommend that at this moment in time we don’t.”
The IRP has met three times since October 24 2018 to review allowances in response to changes in Durham County Council’s committee structure and political makeup.
This included a decision to scrap the human resources committee and reduce special responsibility allowances for its former chairman and vice-chairman.
The number of political groups increasing from six to seven due to the formation of the North East Party also saw an increase in opposition group leaders, who are able to claim £3,325 a year.
As part of the review, councillors were also asked to express views to be included by the IRP.
Requests for allowances for cabinet support officers and free off-peak parking in council car parks for councillors were rejected during this process.
A committee report added: “Two councillors requested that there be no change to allowances, one of whom referencing that as the council was in some degree of financial crisis there should be a freeze on allowances.”
The new allowances scheme will come into force in April at the start of the 2019/20 financial year.
Under the scheme, there will be no changes to special responsibility allowances.
Here is a complete list of allowances agreed for Durham County Council members for 2019/20:
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Chairman of the County Council – £6,650
Vice-Chairman of the County Council – £3,325
Leader of the County Council – £36,575
Deputy Leader of the County Council – £19,950
Cabinet Members – £13,300
Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Management Board - Chairman £13,300/Vice-Chairman £7,980
Appeals and Complaints Committee -Chairman £2,660/Vice-Chairman £1,330
Audit Committee - Chairman £2,660/Vice-Chairman £1,330
Corporate Parenting Panel - Chairman £2,660/Vice-Chairman £1,330
Highways Committee - Chairman £2,660/Vice-Chairman £1,330
General Licensing and Registration Committee - Chairman £3,325/Vice-Chairman £1,662
Statutory Licensing Committee - Chairman £3,325/Vice-Chairman £1,662
General Licensing and Registration Sub-Committee - Chairman £3,325
Planning Committees (x4) - Chairman £3,325/Vice-Chairman £1,662
Pension Fund Committee - Chairman £2,660/Vice-Chairman £1,330
Children and Young Peoples’ Scrutiny Committee - Chairman £2,660/Vice-Chairman £1,330
Safer and Stronger Communities Scrutiny Committee - Chairman £2,660/Vice-Chairman £1,330
Environment and Sustainable Communities Scrutiny Committee - Chairman £2,660/Vice-Chairman £1,330
Economy and Enterprise Scrutiny Committee - Chairman £2,660/Vice-Chairman £1,330
Adults, Wellbeing and Health Scrutiny Committee - Chairman £2,660/Vice-Chairman £1,330
Standards Committee - Chairman £2,660
Leader of opposition groups (x6) – £3,235
Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service