By Paul Geater
Thursday, September 27, 2012
MEMBERS of the borough have rejected calls for a five percent increase in backbench allowances in a heated debate in the council chamber.
They voted along party lines to reject the recommendations of an independent panel that had looked at the council’s allowances.
The panel had suggested that backbench councillors should have their allowances increase by about £195 a year while the some special responsibility payments should be cut or abolished altogether.
This would have left the overall allowance bill broadly unchanged.
The chair of the panel, Sally Wainman, said the members had met many times since April and had looked at allowances paid by many other authorities.
Ipswich’s basic allowances were below average in the area, and had not increased since the last independent report was prepared in 2007 – that report was not implemented either.
Labour council leader David Ellesmere said he could not tell council staff their salaries were continuing to be frozen if councillors were getting a 5pc rise in allowances.
He thanked the independent panel for its work, but said area committee chairs deserved their special allowances of £3,745 because there was considerable work needed in that role – the panel had suggested an allowance of £1,200 would be appropriate.
Opposition leader John Carnall said the Labour group wanted to retain the status quo because 18 out of the 32 Labour councillors got special allowances.
“He likes the system because it enables him to reward more than half his own side,” he said.
Area committee chair Keith Rawlingson supported Mr Ellesmere, saying the role entailed considerable work, not just chairing meetings but acting as a point of contact in the areas served.
The council voted on party lines – Labour voted to maintain the current allowances, the Conservatives voted to accept the recommendations of the panel and the Liberal Democrats abstained because they objected to the panel suggestion that a payment for the leader of the third party should be abolished altogether.
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