Councillors agree allowance hike
A COUNCIL chief has defended accepting a 64 per cent allowance rise – despite presiding over a huge rise in local taxes earlier this year.Colin Sykes, leader of Colchester Borough Council, said the increase in his and other councillors' allowances had been proposed by an independent body.
A COUNCIL chief has defended accepting a 64 per cent allowance rise – despite presiding over a huge rise in local taxes earlier this year.
Colin Sykes, leader of Colchester Borough Council, said the increase in his and other councillors' allowances had been proposed by an independent body.
Mr Sykes' remuneration for his role as leader will jump from its current rate of £10,793 to £17,725 per year if the council approves the recommendations.
Ordinary members will see their £2,878 basic allowance rise to £4,725 – also up 64% - while cabinet members will get £12,525 – an increase of £3,891 or a 45% rise.
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Mr Sykes insisted that although it represented a big leap, considering the time he and colleagues spent working on council matters it was not excessive.
"I shall not turn it down. Not with the amount of time and effort I put in. I don't think anyone else should either," he said.
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Andrew Weavers, the council's monitoring officer, said that the rises had been proposed by an independent remuneration panel, made up of one member from the public sector, one from the private sector, one member from the voluntary sector and one from the council's citizens' panel.
"It was clear that since the members' allowances were last reviewed, the amounts being paid to Colchester members were considerably lower than the benchmark figures of similar authorities in the Eastern region.
"It was a matter of concern we were not paying members the right amount for the job."
He added that the basic figure had been calculated on the average wage of a non-manual worker in Colchester.
"We need to ensure that we can attract people to stand for office without them being out of pocket," he said.
Conservative Group leader at the council John Jowers said: "I agree that in civic life it is expected you should give time and commitment for nothing – that is fair.
"But when, as now, it starts getting towards being a full time job, the labourer is worthy of the hire. If you were an executive director of a PLC with a £90 million turnover, instead of a council, you would be on £150,000. We are being asked to take responsibility for some huge financial and social decisions."
Labour group leader Tim Young said: "I think once you set up an independent panel to look at your allowances you are almost duty bound to go along with their results.
"I am not sure that Colin Sykes deserves to be on three times as much as I am, but I don't think we'll be voting against it."