Group leaders reject rise

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SENIOR councillors say they do not support proposals for a rise in the basic allowance given to members.

Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher described the IRP’s report as “robust” and said he was pleased it backed up Labour’s mayoral referendum stance that the changes would save £1.2m over the next 10 years.

Coun Akers-Belcher said the Labour Group was due to meet on Thursday night but said he did not support the rise in the basic allowance in the current economic climate.

He said: “It would be morally incorrect to accept a rise.”

Coun Akers-Belcher said only when local authority staff are given a pay rise would it be right for councillors to consider it.

But Coun Akers-Belcher, who said the leader’s allowance represented a “huge saving” compared to the mayoral allowance, added: “I think the special responsibility allowances are fair and comparable with the work that the people on the policy committees will be taking on.

“All in all I think they are acceptable.”

Coun Geoff Lilley, group leader of the second largest party, Putting Hartlepool First, said: “I accept we have the lowest basic allowance in the North-East.

“But we are a small town and the council is looking to make savings of around £20m. We are on the bones and to me, every penny matters.

“We should share the degree of financial stress that the town is suffering and I don’t think there should be an increase in the basic allowance.”

Coun Lilley also said the leader’s allowance – which is three times the basic allowance – was “far too much” and argued there should be a recognition of the work group leaders do.

He added: “The overwhelming majority of people that will benefit are all in one party.”

The Conservative group leader, Coun Ray Wells, said: “We broadly support the recommendations which mainly fall in line with existing remuneration packages from the old system.

“As far as the basic allowance goes, our group will be voting to keep the existing allowances.

“We also support the recommendation to remove the secondary group leader allowance, which I appreciate is a bit like a turkey voting in favour of Christmas.

“I would remove all leader allowances, apart from the leader of the council.”