Panel hears from members

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AN independent panel set up to examine the level of councillor allowances has heard evidence from members.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) is looking at members’ basic allowance and also the mayor’s allowance after his appointment as chairman of Cleveland Police Authority.

Several meetings have taken place in recent months with the latest being held last week.

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

Putting Hartlepool First group leader Geoff Lilley, Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher and Conservative group leader Ray Wells were all asked to submit written and oral evidence at the latest round of meetings.

Other councillors were also invited to submit their suggestions.

John Taylor, chairman of the IRP, said: “The panel met twice during the month of August as part of the ongoing review of councillors’ allowances.

“The meetings provided the opportunity for all of the political groups on the council and individual councillors to put forward their thoughts and suggestions.

“The panel has started to give consideration to the views expressed by councillors and is continuing to gather further information to help put recommendations forward to the council.

“Clearly, we will need further meetings before we conclude our report and no date has been set yet to report back.”

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

It is examining what impact reducing the number of councillors from 47 to 33 in the May election will have on the basic allowance of £5,767, which is the lowest allowance in the North-East.

Mayor Stuart 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.

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