Councillors training pay plan revealed
CAMPAIGNERS have criticised a council after plans were unveiled to offer cash rewards for training and trips away - including visits to skateparks.Funding from St Edmundsbury Borough Council taxpayers could be made available for a wide range of activities - such as a recent tour of skateboarding arenas around the country made by a councillor and a paid officer.
CAMPAIGNERS have criticised a council after plans were unveiled to offer cash rewards for training and trips away - including visits to skateparks.
Funding from St Edmundsbury Borough Council taxpayers could be made available for a wide range of activities - such as a recent tour of skateboarding arenas around the country made by a councillor and a paid officer.
A development panel at the council has called on an independent body to look at the idea of rewarding members with some form of training credit system, whereby members who actively seek out new skills and knowledge will be financially rewarded. One option being looked at could see the basic allowance cut to pay for the extra incentive allowance.
But Reg Hartles, chairman of Protest Against Council Tax in Suffolk, described such incentives to take on trips away and training as “luxuries” that taxpayers should not be funding.
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“It is questionable they have their priorities straight,” he said. “It is fairly low on the priority list and at times like this it seems like a luxury when people are struggling to pay their council tax.
“There is a range of issues which are more important than this skateboarding or any leisure activity is not very important.”
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The council's democratic renewal panel has called for the review because not all councillors actively seek new knowledge and expertise, said the panel's vice-chairman Sheila Wormleighton.
The matter will now be looked into by the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), which will report back to the council in due course.
The training credit system could mean councillors taking part in “member development activities” would get a better allowance than those who had not.
The council yesterday said member development activities ranged from learning about computers and finance to the more seemingly obscure areas of expertise, such as skateboard park design. The panel was calling for better awards for such training to encourage more councillors to learn about things useful to their roles.
Mrs Wormleighton said the council had an inner core of members who always undertook training when it was offered or went out of their way to pick up new skills. But, she said, there were some members who did not and who could not see the value of training to their work as councillors.
She said one councillor had gone out to find out about skateboard parks - their design, use and impact - so that he would be in a better position to discuss issues surrounding such parks in the future. This, Mrs Wormleighton said, was valuable knowledge and constituted training.
She added other training might include visiting recycling centres and major developments around the country.
“The training requirement has increased. We've now got job descriptions for members and the mayor. With the training credit system you would only get it if you put in some training.
“It would also mean that councillors would have documentation they can point to saying they've got transferable skills to their employers,” she said.
Jim Thorndyke, the councillor who visited skateparks outside St Edmundsbury, said: “I lead on skate parks but I have never claimed for a trip nor do I plan to do so. I do it as part of the job and I have no intention of claiming.”