REVEALED: Budget-busting cost of councillor allowance rise for Mid Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 19:00 05 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:42 06 August 2018
A 25% increase in allowances for Mid Suffolk councillors has left an £89,000 hole in the public purse – after the rise was backdated a year.
Senior councillors argued they hadn’t seen a rise in four years, and the level of work had increased.
The recommendations were put forward by an independent panel.
Annual allowances for cabinet members also increased from £5,000 to £6,250.
Babergh District Council also approved the same rises – but only Mid Suffolk has backdated the rise to May 2017.
Now Mid Suffolk has admitted in a report that the decision has resulted in an £89,000 overspend on its budget.
Last night, opposition councillors said they were concerned.
“It does cause concern, and that’s why we would rather see that money spent on something like planning policy or planning officers – to help with the current issues we have got,” said Rachel Eburne, opposition group leader.
Green party councillors, who opposed the rise during the vote at Mid Suffolk, said they had been told at the time the rise would cost £66,000 in total.
Both councils increased their budgets by £70,000 for this year to cover the cost, but fresh data published ahead of this week’s cabinet meetings has revealed Mid Suffolk overspent this by £14,000, with a further £75,000 hole caused by the decision to backdate it a year.
Babergh opted not to backdate it to May last year, but still overspent by £15,000.
The decision to backdate the payment to May 2017 was so that it would take effect from the time that the council adopted the ‘leader and cabinet’ model of governance, which cabinet member for finance John Whitehead said meant more responsibility for those members.
Mr Whitehead said they were unable to include the backdating in last year’s budget, and said it needed to be taken in the context of the council’s overall finances for the first two months of this year, – a favourable figure of £176,000.
He added: “Going forward we have this budget of £70,000 now [for allowances].
“Come 2019 we will be reducing the number of councillors from 40 to 34, and that would take £30,000 out of it for next year and going forward – it’s not really going to hit us going forward.”
Mr Whitehead pointed to the basic allowance being a relatively low figure, and said that there had only been “small council tax increases” in recent years.