Ipswich councillors agree rise in allowance to attract new people – but cut recommended increase

The Corn Exchange, where the concert will be held. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

The Corn Exchange, where the concert will be held. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

After 10 years of voting down pay rises – a move which has saved residents £250,000 – Ipswich borough councillors last night voted to raise their basic allowance by 6.8% in a bid to encourage a broader range of people to stand for election.

The council shunned a recommendation from an independent panel, saying the basic allowance should go up by 11% to bring it in line with other councils in the area.

Instead, they voted unanimously to reduce the total allowances budget recommendation by two-thirds – down to a 2.4% increase – meaning it is still one of the lowest allowances budgets in the county.

“No one becomes a councillor – at least at Ipswich Borough Council – for the money, and if they had they would be sorely disappointed,” said the Labour council leader David Ellesmere, who had united with Conservative opposition leader Nadia Cenci to draft the new recommendation, which sees the basic allowance rise from £3,745 to £4,000.

Mr Ellesmere added: “I suspect most councillors are out of pocket as a result of being councillors. However, we’re legally obliged to set up an independent renumeration panel every four or five years.

“Past reports we’ve voted not to implement.” The last basic allowance rise at Ipswich Borough Council was in 2006.

Mr Ellesmere said there had been unanimous cross-party agreement not to increase allowances in the past when council staff were not getting pay rises and there were funding cuts from central government.

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Had the council increased its basic allowances in line with inflation over the years, they would now be 16% higher than their current level.

“By not increasing our allowances we’ve saved council tax payers around £250,000, which has helped protect services,” Mr Ellesmere said. “The problem is if we keep freezing allowances we’re going to get further and further out of step.”

Therefore, councillors voted to raise the basic allowance from £3,745 to £4,000 – a rise of just under 7%. High-ranking councillors are entitled to a special responsibility allowance but these recommended rises were also reduced by an even greater amount, meaning the total allowances budget will rise by just 2.4% – two thirds less than recommended by the panel.

“It gives back-bench councillors an increase in their allowances in line with staff pay over the past 10 years,” said Mr Ellesmere, who added the gap between the back-bench allowance and the special responsibility allowance was also now reduced.

Ms Cenci, leader of the Tories, said: “I’m very pleased to second this amendment and I would like to thank councillor David Ellesmere for agreeing to bring a cross-party leader consensus.”

She said it was important to listen to the independent panel as the council needed to attract “people from all walks of life, especially young parents who understand current challenges we face” to stand for election.

The full council meeting heard Ipswich councillors were among the lowest paid in Suffolk, with only Waveney councillors receiving less. The new allowances come into effect from October 1.