COUNCILLORS at Colchester Borough Council are to get a pay increase, the East Anglian Daily Times has learnt.

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The basic allowance received by elected members at the local authority will go up by 1.5% from April.

The move is automatically linked with pay rises for staff at the council who will see the same increase to their salary.

Members of the Conservative opposition say the move is “completely unacceptable” and will be opting out of the rise.

But the Lib Dem leader of the council Anne Turrell has accused the Tories of “playing politics” with the issue, failing to consider those councillors who are less well off.

It will mean the top council chiefs could receive up to an additional £380 a year.

Leader of the opposition Will Quince said: “Councillors’ allowances are going up and this is completely unacceptable.

“It’s up to councillors to opt out and everyone in my group has done that. We are not going to take any rise in allowances.

“In the current climate when many households are having to tighten budgets it’s only right we show solidarity and refuse the rise.”

Mr Quince has put forward a motion at next week’s full council meeting urging members not to take up the proposed increase in allowances.

“I hope they will follow suit. It’s more a case that everyone is making economies in some shape or form. It’s completely unpalatable.”

He said he supported the pay increase for council staff because they had worked “incredibly hard” and contributed to finding significant savings, while front line services had not been compromised.

The majority of council workers in England have had their pay frozen for the last three years, under guidelines set out by the National Joint Council. It has not yet been decided if they will receive any pay increase this year.

Colchester Borough Council is one of 40 local authorities which decides its own staff salaries, having opted out of the nationally set guidelines in the 1990s.

Union chiefs in Colchester had asked for a 2.5% increase but settled for 1.5% after negotiations.

But leader of the council Anne Turrell said the Tory opposition had voted through the pay increase last year.

She said: “This is not as simple as it seems. We have councillors on benefits, including some in receipt of disability allowance. If they do not take the increase, they will see their benefits reduced because it will still be counted as an increase to their income whether they opt in or not.

“We are very angry about this because the Tories have no consideration for people who are worse off than them.

“Some councillors are rich, some are not and some are on benefits.

“I haven’t decided yet but it’s not about whether I take it or not, we need to be fair and we need councillors that represent all parts of society not just those who can afford it.

“The Tories are playing politics with this without considering the implications for some councillors on benefits or those that are struggling financially.”

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