Councillors to get 33% allowance hike

PROPOSALS to give councillors a 33% increase in their allowance met with an angry backlash last night.

PROPOSALS to give councillors a 33% increase in their allowance met with an angry backlash last night.

Suffolk Coastal District Council is being recommended by an independent panel to increase the basic allowance from £2,988 to £4,000 when the full council meets on March 27.

Research showed that their allowance was ''well below the average levels of other comparable authorities.''

Allowances for councillors who have special responsibilities would also rise.

The leader's special responsibility allowance would rise from £8,961 to £12,000 and the extra allowance for cabinet members would rise from £2,988 to £4,000. Other increases include a rise in babysitting charges from £4 to £10 an hour.

However, Reg Hartles, chairman of Protest Against Council Tax in Suffolk, said: ''This increase is not necessary and it is totally out of line with what the average working class would expect.

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''They could have had an increase on a regular basis in line with inflation instead of hitting us with such a big increase now.''

But Ray Herring, council leader, said this was the first comprehensive review of the work done by councillors and the pay increase recognised the increasing demands on their time.

He said: “It is largely due to the efforts of our councillors that Suffolk Coastal have successfully delivered real value for money and developed into a top performing council over recent years. Our current budget position will allow allowances to better reflect the workloads of our councillors.''

The panel comprised the chairman, Alan Lower, Penny Austen-Brown and John Hill. They said in their report most councillors worked between 22 and 28 hours a week

''What is clear is that earlier estimates of members' workloads are on the low side and do not reflect the current demands made on members' time as a result of Government initiatives, new ways of working, negotiating shared services and partnership working.

''The average shire district basic allowance across the country is currently £3,991. However, many local authorities are currently reviewing their allowance scheme so this average figure is likely to increase,'' said the panel.

The panel admitted that the public could be critical of a 33% increase - but the report stressed that councillors should be properly rewarded for doing a good job.

''It is currently difficult to measure member performance and for this reason we feel that the council should give serious consideration to the introduction of job descriptions and annual appraisals for all members,'' said the report.

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