Councillors Have Voted To Give Themselves a Pay Rise
COUNCILLORS have voted to increase their pay for the second time in four months – at a time when their constituents are feeling the full force of an economic downturn. Each councillor will receive a basic allowance of £4,400 from April 2009 – increased f
COUNCILLORS have voted to increase their pay for the second time in four months - at a time when their constituents are feeling the full force of an economic downturn.
Each councillor will receive a basic allowance of £4,400 from April 2009 - increased from £3,520 in 2008.
In July, councillors upped their pay by £330 and doubled the amount given to chairmen of committees - a move instigated by leader Fred Brown as soon as he reached office.
An independent panel of finance experts had recommended pay increases as early as May 2007, but the then leader Brian Ashton refused to accommodate their findings and instigated a modest pay increase instead.
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In September, a committee meeting held in private, was told that the "as a result of a change of circumstances since [May 2007] the council had requested the independent remuneration panel to carry out a review of their conclusions."
The panel's second report has been circulated to the councillors but not made public, and Cllr Brown admitted he had added "a couple of percentage points" to the panel's recommendations.
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Cllr Brown himself will receive £5,304 for his role as leader.
"I'm fortunate in that I'm self employed, but other members actually lose money by coming to council. What with working parties, select committees, the workload has increased and I was determined to fully implement the findings of the independent panel. I have always been of the mind that if you want " said Cllr Brown.
He insisted that the move was not done in two stages to inflict pay increases by stealth.
"I was advised by officers that I had to do it that way," he said.
Cllr Ian Allen, who along with Brian Ashton and Neil Morrison were the only councillors not to vote in favour of the pay increase, said he was concerned about the timing of the move.
"I think there was concern about the timing among Liberal Democrats but in the end everyone thought 'we'll take the money'" he said. "I think people are just a bit embarrassed to talk about it but I would welcome an open debate. I would love to be able to spend more time doing council work but at the moment I can't because I have to earn a living. I think it would be unfair of me to say I am not in favour of a pay increase generally, but some people may be losing their jobs very shortly and you have to think about the current climate, against the background of the ADeC/Babylon Gallery cut and the below inflation grant rise to Ely Museum."
Nationally, no complete survey has ever been undertaken into councillors' pay. In 2006, the Local Government Association made an attempt, but 131 of the UK's 388 local government authorities failed to offer up information. Statisticians found the average allowance for a council the size of East Cambridgeshire was £3,991.
How much are councillors paid in Cambridgeshire?
City of Cambridge £2,782
South Cambs £4,627
East Cambs £4,400
All figures represent a basic allowance accorded equally to all councillors and are correct at the time of going to press. Travel and food allowances, and "special responsibility allowances" are not included.