Anger as Babergh and Mid Suffolk councillors prepare to approve allowance rise of 25%
PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:20 18 June 2018
Plans to increase allowances for councillors in a Suffolk district by 25% has sparked criticism among opposition groups.
The Independent Remuneration Panel has recommended that a £1,000 per year increase in basic allowance for all councillors is rolled out next year.
This would be a 25% rise on the current basic allowance of £4,000, and would include a £4,500 increase for each council leader.
Proposals have also been laid out to more than triple the allowance for cabinet members with portfolios – from £2,000 to £6,250 per year on top of the basic allowance.
It means that basic allowance costs alone will rise by £83,000.
News of these latest plans comes at a time when savings are being made. According to a recent report, the councils’ move to Endeavour House in Ipswich last year is set to save around £580,000 per year.
Rachel Eburne, from the opposition Green Party, said: “We are particularly concerned about the level of increase for cabinet members with portfolio.
“This massive increase for these councillors with portfolio responsibility can only be justified if there is more effective performance by them in resolving the extremely important and long-standing issues, such as the five year housing land supply and ensuring we have community-led housing development.”
Ms Eburne added that it should not be councillors voting on their own allowance increases, and should be a decision by an outgoing council before an election.
Independent councillor Derek Davis said: “I personally don’t think we should be doing this. I think it’s horrendous and blatantly unfair to the taxpayers when the officers are only getting 2% [pay rises].”
Despite being an independent recommendation, it has emerged that the panel put questionnaires to all councillors to seek their views, including directly asking councillors how much they think the allowance should be and which roles should receive a special allowance.
However, Nick Gowrley, Conservative leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, defended the proposal.
He said: “Over the past few years we have transformed the way the council works to better deliver services in Mid Suffolk – for example last year’s introduction of a cabinet model has helped us tackle issues head on and make real progress.
“However, the flip side of that is that individual councillors have been asked to do a lot more, especially those who have taken cabinet posts.
“We asked the Independent Remuneration Panel – not councillors themselves – to review how we remunerate councillors, the first such review in many years.
“They have put forward these proposals and, after a cross-party panel reviewed them, they are being taken to full council so that all of our members can consider, discuss and vote on them.”
Babergh leader John Ward echoed the sentiments, stating that the review has not happened for a number of years and that councillor workload had gone up.
The news comes as tourist information centres in Lavenham and Stowmarket have been announced as being closed down by September as part of cost cutting measures.
Babergh’s council will vote on the proposals on Tuesday, before Mid Suffolk’s council discusses the item on Thursday.