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Mostly winners, but a handful of ‘losers’, in councillor allowances report

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Five Cambridgeshire county councillors who chair committees, and their five deputies, are in line for a jump in their allowances following an independent review.

The same independent review also confirms, however, their recommendation from 2021 not to pay special responsibility allowances (SRAs) for the deputy leader of the main and minor opposition groups.

The review makes recommendations about special responsibility payments for policy and service committee chairs and vice chairs – which had been delayed for eighteen months while the new responsibilities bedded in.

It followed an overhaul of council committees following the Conservative defeat at the May 2021 election.

The independent panel said the intervening period had given them time to gather “evidence and knowledge to support a recommendation.

“The panel interviewed all the chairs of the policy and service committees and was of the view that the roles were both substantive in size, complexity and required a significant time commitment for the members involved.”

The independent body will recommend to next week’s full council meeting that chairs should receive an annual allowance of £19,355 – representing 60 per cent of the council leader’s allowance.

The panel says this will reflect the size, complexity, and time commitment of their roles; and vice chairs should receive an allowance of £9,678, representing 30 per cent.

A county council spokesperson confirmed that “the independent panel has proposed no change to its earlier recommendation to withdraw special responsibility allowances from deputy leaders of opposition groups.

“It has also recommended indexing member allowances to the median level of the council’s professional and managerial staff salary band – which will mean a 3.8 per cent increase for 2023/4.”

The basic annual allowance for the 61 county councillors is £10,725.94 and this will now rise by £407.59.

If the recommendations are agreed, the SRA for the council leader (currently £32,258.82) will rise by £1,224,84 a year. The deputy leader SRA is £20,967.62 and under the formula put forward this will rise by £796.77 a year.

“It is always uncomfortable that councillors have to vote through their own allowances, and I am grateful to the independent panel for the work they have done in bringing forward this report,” said Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council.

“They consider a range of issues including council finances, but also benchmarking against other councils, and how to attract and keep people in this vital role who properly reflect the Cambridgeshire population and can offer a range of different voices to decision making.

“While I do not agree with all the conclusions, I think it is important that we respect their role in this process, so I hope the council will support the recommendations.”.

You can see the full agenda for next week’s Full Council meeting online and follow the meeting on the Council’s live stream from 10.30 on Tuesday, December 13.

The independent panel concluded that while “the role of the elected councillor should, in part, be viewed as unpaid voluntary service, we advocate a principle of fair remuneration.

“The panel continues to subscribe to the view promoted by the independent councillors’ commission: Remuneration should not be an incentive for service as a councillor.

“Nor should lack of remuneration be a barrier. The basic allowance should encourage people from a wide range of backgrounds and with a wide range of skills to serve as local councillors.

“Those who participate in and contribute to the democratic process should not suffer unreasonable financial disadvantage as a result of doing so”.

 

 

FACT FILE

Cambridgeshire County Council appointed the following to undertake the independent remuneration review and make recommendations on its future scheme.

Nicky Blanning – Local resident

Gerard Dempsey- Business Consultant and member of the Judiciary

Jennifer Horn- Local Company Director

Amanda Orchard- Marketing Consultant and Local Magistrate

Mark Palmer – Development Director, Southeast Employers (Chair)

 

 

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