Suffolk: £3 million cost of democracy in county

The Suffolk County Council Building on Russell Road in Ipswich

The Suffolk County Council Building on Russell Road in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s councillors cost taxpayers in Suffolk more than £3million last year, we can reveal today.

Suffolk has 381 council positions – filled by 334 councillors. Of these 47 are “twin-trackers” sitting on both the county and a district or borough council.

The county council paid £1,126,000 in allowances and expenses to its 75 councillors last year – a fall of £12,000 on the previous year. The figure includes a small amount paid to non-councillors co-opted on to specialist sub-committees.

The seven districts and boroughs in Suffolk paid a total of £1,881,000 last year – a £14,000 rise on the previous year’s figure. Between them they have 306 councillors.

At the last census Suffolk had a total population of 730,000 – that means there is one district or borough councillor for every 2,400 people in the county and one county councillor for every 9,700.

The amount paid by councils across the county varies – although the none of the districts or boroughs are significantly out of line with each other.

All councillors get a “basic allowance” designed to compensate them for part of the time they spend representing their voters.

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This is formally agreed by the council – but in most cases they follow the recommendation of an independent panel made up of non-council members.

In recent years a number of councils have ignored recommendations from independent committees to increase allowances – feeling it would be wrong for members to take more money at a time of austerity.

In addition to basic allowances there are special responsibility payments – to executive members, cabinet members, or committee chairs.

Councillors can also claim expenses for travelling and “subsistence” if their attendance at a meeting means they have to buy a meal out.

Basic allowance rates vary. The lowest basic allowance in Suffolk is Waveney, which pays its councillors £3,535 a year. The highest basic allowance in Suffolk is St Edmundsbury, which pays £5,184 a year.

The basic allowance for members of Suffolk County Council is £10,172 a year – a figure which reflects the fact that it meets during the day, meaning members have to be compensated for time they lose at work.

Executive members can earn about twice the basic allowance on top of that while council leaders can earn about three times on top of basic – although that varies from authority to authority.

The largest district leader’s allowance is paid to Ray Herring at Suffolk Coastal who earned £16,160 in allowances – although when expenses (which are only paid if receipts are produced) are taken into account the largest sum was paid to St Edmundsbury council leader John Griffiths.

The lowest allowance for a council leader in Suffolk was the £11,674 paid to Jennie Jenkins in Babergh.

County council leader Mark Bee receives the largest allowance in Suffolk. He is paid £10,172 basic allowance at the county and £27,973 special responsibility allowance. He also receives £3,535 as a backbench councillor at Waveney – meaning his council allowances total £41,680.

Mr Bee also claimed expenses of £5,837 from the county council.

Cabinet members at the county earn allowances of £25,430 a year in total .

The allowances paid to councillors – even to the leaders of authorities – are less than the £70,000 a year salary paid to Suffolk’s highest-paid elected official, Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore.