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GBC Executive Recommends One-year Freeze in Councillor Allowances

Published on: 25 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 27 Nov, 2023

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Guildford Borough Council’s Executive has recommended a one-year freeze in councillor allowances due to the poor state of council’s finances.

The Executive at the Liberal Democrat-run borough council voted on Thursday (November 23) to recommend that the council should defer for 12 months any decision on an independent report which has recommended increases to councillor allowances. This would freeze allowances at their current level until then.

An Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) chaired by Dennis Frost, a former local government officer, had recommended that the basic allowance paid annually to all councillors be increased from £8,348 to £8,579, as well as other changes to the scheme of allowances and expenses. Councillors with extra responsibilities such as Executive members, committee chairs and group leaders get extra allowances.

Summary of how the special responsibility allowances are calculated. Source GBC website.

A Lib Dem spokesperson said: “Whilst appreciating the work and detail that the panel had applied to making their recommendations on how councillor allowances are calculated and awarded, Executive members agreed that anything which increased council expenditure was not in the best interest of residents at a time when there is still concern and major ongoing efforts to address the council’s medium term budget deficit.”

The report recommending changes to councillor allowances had been produced by the IRP, which has surveyed all councillors and interviewed a selection of councillors from across the chamber to gain a deeper insight into the workload of councillors from leader to backbencher.

The Lib Dem GBC Executive

The eight lead members noted one particular passage in the report: “that a successful allowance scheme will enable any local person regardless of income or status to be able to stand for elections and fulfil roles of office without experiencing the deterrent of financial disadvantage” but said that adopting this new system at a time when there was still uncertainty around the council’s finances would not be responsible.

All eight members of the Executive voted to recommend to the next full council meeting, when it meets on December 5, that any decision on the recommended new scheme of allowances should be deferred for 12 months. This would mean that the existing scheme of allowances would remain in place, freezing allowances at their current level.

Commenting after the debate Council leader Julia McShane said: “I am very grateful to the panel for the detailed work that they have given to this report, and I particularly acknowledge their recognition of the need to enhance democracy with a series of measures to enable local people from a variety of backgrounds to step forward for election to the role of councillor.

“The Executive committee have taken the right decision this evening in voting to recommend deferring adoption of the panel’s recommendation until such time as we have certainty that the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan is on a sound footing. There are many sensible ideas in the report and I look forward to having the chance to consider these again in twelve months’ time.”

Reduced budget deficit forecast

The Executive aso heard that the medium-term budget deficit has now been reduced to £7.3 million, down from £18.3 million this summer, due to cost-saving measures including plans to sell £50 million of assets and a £100 million reduction in planned borrowing.

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Responses to GBC Executive Recommends One-year Freeze in Councillor Allowances

  1. John Redpath Reply

    November 27, 2023 at 8:21 pm

    The council deficit has been regarded by many as a political spoof. Invent a huge deficit and then reduce it to show how well the council finances (and the current administration) are doing.

    The council’s claim that it has saved £7.5 million by selling assets worth £50 million and through a £100 million reduction in planned borrowing. Surely, as a base line, the council will have reduced the medium-term deficit by £50 million (plus investment interest earned and a saving loan interest owed)?

    John Redpath is a former R4GV borough councillor

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