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How much should County Councillors be paid?

January 11, 2018 9:13 PM
Originally published by Liberal Democrat Group on Norfolk County Council

Pay slipBasic Allowance

All local authorities pay their Councillors a basic allowance this is a flat rate allowance, payable to all their elected members. It is recognition of the number of hours that the Councillors need in order to carry out the role expected of them.

Norfolk County Council asked an independent remuneration panel their report to the County Council is available at http://norfolkcc.cmis.uk.com/norfolkcc/Meetings/tabid/70/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/397/Meeting/591/Committee/2/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx)

An Independent Remuneration Panel looking at the allowance in Norfolk in 2017 had an expectation that members should generally not be spending less than an average of 21.2 hours per week on their basic county council duties.

The Panel felt that the average gross hourly rate for all full-time employee jobs in Norfolk set out in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings produced by the Office of National Statistics was an appropriate one to use for considering an indicator. The rate in 2010 was £13.59.

In the 2017 survey it is now £14.42 in Norfolk. For comparison purposes, the Panel noted other rates as follows:

  • UK - £16.95
  • England - £17.20
  • East Region - £17.68
  • Cambs - £18.31
  • Essex - £18.47
  • Herts - £20.64
  • Suffolk - £16.07

The rate of £9,018 recommended by the Panel in 2010 was accepted by the County Council. Since then, as recommended by the Panel, the allowance has increased each year in line with the employee pay awards and is currently £9,401 per annum.

The Panel recommended that a fundamental review be undertaken by the Panel in 2018, with any resulting changes to be implemented in 2019.

This was rejected by the Conservative Group and they agreed that the basic allowance be increased from £9,401 to £10,500 (11.7% increase) on the grounds of fairness.

Comparison Allowance?

If you look at the comparison authorities that the Panel used for their basic allowances they are:

Cambs - £10,315

Essex - £12,000

Herts - £9,978

Suffolk - £10, 273

Special Responsibility Allowances

A local authority can also pay a Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) where that Councillor has significant additional responsibilities that justify additional payment.

The independent panel reviewed all the Council's allowances and concluded that

  1. a full review of SRAs will be undertaken pending clarification of the Council's intentions with regard to its future system of governance (it is likely that the Council will move from a committee system to a cabinet one).
  1. Amendments to the current SRAs as follows:-
  • Chairmen of Children's Services Committee and Adult Social Care Committee to receive 57.5% of the Leader's SRA (£15,809) (up from £13,747 a 15% increase)
  • Group Spokespersons from the second largest Group not holding the Chair on Service Committees and Policy and Resources Committee to receive 5% of the Leader's Allowance (£1,375). (This is a new allowance for the Council but it is line with the allowances paid at other local authorities).

Unfortunately, this wasn't good enough for the Leader of the Council who also wanted his allowance increased from £27,495 to £31,900 a 16% increase.

Comparison Allowance

If you look at the comparison authorities that the Panel used. Their allowances for the Leader of the Council are:

Cambs - £31,745

Essex - £54,000

Herts - £39,912

Suffolk - £30,821

Average Salary Levels

An area that the independent panel could also have looked at to get an idea of how Norfolk compared was the average salary levels in the areas that they had looked into. We did and found that:

England £27,600

Suffolk (Ipswich) - £23,651

Cambs (Cambridge) - £30,681

Essex (Chelmsford) - £24,311

Herts (Hertford) - £24,780

Norfolk - £22,793.

(Source - payscale.com)

So is it Fair?

The Tory claim is that Norfolk councillors were paid much less than those working for other councils and on the face of it looks like there is some validity to that point.

However, when you look at the comparison authorities that the panel used two things could become apparent:

  1. They are all Tory controlled some with large majorities and
  2. Three of them have increased their allowances (after being re-elected) in 2017. Some of the increases have been substantial - 30% in Cambridgeshire.

This means that the playing field is no longer level and has been skewered by Conservative administrations wanting to pay themselves more money. Did they tell the electorate this before their elections?

It now makes the situation look worse in Norfolk that it really is. The changes to the allowances that the Conservatives agreed will move the Norfolk allowances ahead of almost all the comparison authorities yet Norfolk will still be at bottom for salary levels and average gross hourly rate.

There will now be 12 Tory Councillors who receive more money than the average salary for Norfolk (£22,793) as Councillors on the County Council and for some of them on their respective District Councils as well. These are:

  1. Cliff Jordan (Yare and All Saints)
  2. Bill Borrett (Elmham and Mattishall)
  3. Alison Thomas (Long Stratton)
  4. Brian Long (Fincham)
  5. Martin Wilby (East Depwade)
  6. Keith Kiddle (Diss and Roydon)
  7. Margaret Dewsbury (Hingham)
  8. Tom FitzPatrick (Fakenham)
  9. Andrew Proctor (Blofield and Brundall)
  10. Graham Plant (Gorleston St Andrews)
  11. Penny Carpenter (Caister-on-Sea)
  12. Tom Garrod (Wroxham)

Do you think this is fair or unfair?

Politician money

The Liberal Democrat View

The Conservatives' decision to put up councillors' allowances by £142,000 a year is irresponsible and offensive. It is offensive to residents who are about to see vital services cut. It is also offensive to hard working council staff who after years of pay restraint have seen the leadership suddenly vote itself a 16% pay rise. The leader of the council talks about "fairness" but has just been voted an allowances package that is double the average earnings in Norfolk.

The Liberal Democrats absolutely oppose the blanket 11% increase for every councillor and another 16% for the council leadership. There are far better ways to spend £142,000.

Dan Roper commented that "I became a councillor to do my best for my community. I represent a rural area, so there is a lot of travel. I have reduced my hours at work due to council activities, I attend a lot of evening meetings. But, I do not feel I need a pay rise. I am in this for public service not for the money. I am sure many councillors of all parties feel the same way. It is a shame that this decision on allowances reflects badly on all of us. I share the public's anger and want this decision reversed with the money going to provide vital services."