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Independent Panel To Review Councillor Allowances

Published on: 7 Aug, 2015
Updated on: 7 Aug, 2015

Councillor allowancesGuildford Borough Council (GBC) is commissioning a review of the allowances it pays to borough and parish councillors.

As an initial step, the appointment of three residents from the borough to form an Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) was approved by the full council.

Although there were only four respondents to adverts placed by the council, Satish Mistry, the executive head of governance, was able to recommend the appointment of three of the four: Michael Burke, Vivienne Cameron and Susan Tresman. Each panel member will receive an honorarium of £500.

The IRP’s recommendations will be publicised. The council stated in the paper debated at their meeting: “Delivery of an independent review of the scheme of allowances supports the council’s priority of ‘Developing our council’ by ensuring payments to councillors are reflective of their roles and responsibilities.

“It will help to ensure allowances are set at a level that facilitates suitably able, qualified, and representative people standing as candidates for council (and their retention and development once elected).”

It is known that political parties can often find it hard to get members to stand as councillors and the low level of the allowances is considered to be one of the possible factors. Parish councils, normally apolitical, find it particularly difficult and often have to co-opt members in order to function.

Remuneration panels have reviewed the overall scheme of councillor allowances on four occasions: 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2011. In December 2011, following consideration of an IRP report, the council approved the current Scheme of Allowances which came into effect on April 1 2012.

It is expected that the new panel will prepare its report during August and September for consideration by the Executive in November. The report will then be put before the council in December and any changes put into effect in April next year (2016).

The basic annual allowance for a councillor is currently £4,845. The council leader receives an additional £5,094; deputy leader £1,274; executive member £3,821; shadow leader £1,069; shadow team member approximately £500. The mayor and deputy mayor receive additional allowances.

Political group leaders receive a payment of approximately £60 per member. Claims for travel and subsistence and dependants’ care can also be made but few are. The total cost of councillor allowances in 2014/15 was almost £300,000.*

Parish councillors, it is understood, can only claim for certain expenses and many, probably most, don’t.

In 2013, Parliament’s Local Government Select Committee reported that councillors had a right to expect an “appropriate level of compensation” and that low pay was deterring many people who are thinking of becoming a local councillor.

Committee chairman, Labour’s Clive Betts, said the young especially should be encouraged to take a local role.

Cllr Mat Furniss (Christchurch), speaking in his capacity as spokesperson for the Conservative group at Millmead, said: “The councillor allowance system is in place to support and enable councillors in their work within local communities, we will fully support the recommendations of the panel.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves (Friary & St Nicolas), leader of the opposition and the Lib Dem group said: “This is a very difficult question. We have reviewed allowances regularly, and while I for one feel that the remuneration does not reflect the amount of time I give to council work – I have very little time in the week for paid employment now – it is very difficult to come up with an even handed proposal.

“Council officers have had a very small percentage pay rise for years now, and how do you adjust payment when the amount of time spent varies so much from one councillor to another?

“Better remuneration should encourage younger residents to consider standing, especially younger women. Increased remuneration for care costs, for childcare and for older people, would help.

“But how to compensate for hours spent is difficult; what would be a disaster is for councillor attendance to, in itself, represent a tick in a box rather than a councillor’s contribution made to a meeting.”

Cllr Angela Gunning (Lab, Stoke) said: “I think the allowances should be reviewed regularly – say every four years.

“Furthermore, not all councillors are retired, with pensions, and time to spare. If we want more much younger people to put themselves forward for election as councillors then we have to recognise that an allowance might be the only source of income.

“We have to appreciate that it is hard work being a councillor – attending meetings, joining working groups, attending to matters in their ward, and dealing with residents’ concerns: this often amounts to a part-time job.”

See also: Opinion: Why I Can’t Continue To Be A Councillor, Opinion: Councillors Need Their Allowances and Open Debate: Should We Pay Our Councillors?

* Based on GBC’s published Councillors’ Allowance Payments 2014/15

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Responses to Independent Panel To Review Councillor Allowances

  1. George Dokimakis Reply

    August 7, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Councillor allowances are crucial to attract new people to the council and ll as; demonstrate that an appropriate compensation is given, not too much, not too little.

    But if only four candidates answered the council’s advertisements and three of those four were selected one has to question the recruitment process.

    Are these people the absolute best to do this job? Are these people above scrutiny and any doubt that the public will accept their recommendations? Do they have the necessary experience and skills to understand what is required and how it should be compensated?

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    August 8, 2015 at 10:21 am

    I am told that we now have 48 Guildford Borough Councillors and out of that 48 only nine make policy as Executive committee members.

    Is it therefore surprising that the political parties find it difficult to field candidates to stand in local elections?

    I know as a past constituency treasurer, and former chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association, that it is a very costly exercise to raise money for this electioneering out of voluntary contributions.

    Perhaps we should question the needs for so many councillors when we have trained professional local government officers?

    To serve as a councillor is voluntary such as is serving as a magistrate an they receive just basic expenses.

    Many Guildfordians also spend much of their time as voluntary workers for little or no reward financial or otherwise.

    It has been said by some that they could not afford to be a councillor without financial support, but I am sure that I am not alone in saying that many of us can not afford to do many things that we would like to do in life.

    Bernard Parke is an hon alderman and former mayor.

  3. Martin Elliott Reply

    August 8, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Well thank goodness for the statement by Cllr Matt Furniss.

    We wouldn’t a repeat of the fiasco by the Conservative controlled Surrey County Council concerning allowances recommended also by an Independent Review Panel.

    I might get into Private Eye again.

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