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Suffolk: Council leader Mark Bee defends rise in allowances as backbench councillors set to get an extra £102 a year

PUBLISHED: 14:01 12 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:01 12 March 2014

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council.

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council.

Archant

Members of Suffolk County Council are likely to get a 1% increase in their allowances next month.

The move, coming as the result of a report from an independent panel, is likely to get the backing of the ruling Conservative group – and was defended by council leader Mark Bee.

He said the rise was modest and the allowances would be set for four years. There was no possibility of any further increase until 2018.

The move would see backbench councillors’ allowances increase from £10,172 a year to £10,274 – a rise of £102 a year.

Mr Bee’s leader’s allowance would go up from a total of £35,602 a year to £35,958 a year, an increase of £356 a year. Cabinet members, political group leaders and council committee chairs would also see their allowances go up by 1%.

There would a new special responsibility payment of £7,705 a year for the chairman of the health and wellbeing board – currently Joanna Spicer.

The allowances for car use would not change – but there would be a slight increase in mileage allowances for councillors who use a motorcycle or bicycle.

Mr Bee said: “This is not an annual rise. Once the allowances are set they are in place for the next four years. I’m minded to propose we accept this report.”

He said that as the proposal was drawn up by an independent body, chaired by former county councillor Dr Alan Lower, it either had to be accepted or rejected in its entirety. It could not be changed by the council.

“The council staff are having a 1% rise this year. If they had not been given a rise there is no way I could have accepted this but as it is, this is a very modest increase that I think I could support.”

The main opposition Labour group will be discussing its response to the proposal before next week’s full meeting of the county council.

Deputy group leader Bryony Rudkin said councillors were put in an invidious position of having to vote on their own allowances.

She said: “I would rather see the rate set centrally, weighted for different parts of the country, so we do not have the situation of voting on what we are paid.”

There were still concerns about the pay for some workers employed indirectly by the council – some were on zero hours contracts that her party is pledged to phasing out.

“Any change in the allowance has to be seen in a wider context, but we will discuss it before deciding how to vote.”

Mr Bee pointed out that any councillor who felt uncomfortable about accepting the increase was at liberty to continue to be paid the current rate.

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