Selasa, 23 Oktober 2012

Councillors vote on pay

Cornwall councillors today voted to reject the recommendation of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) which included the former boss of local newspaper group Cornish and Devon Media, but did agree a rise in allowances from May next year when the new council is elected.

It's always a very tricky business to vote on your own pay. I wish there was a way we could hand it over or tie our allowances to the pay of a particular officer level, but the law is clear in stating that we must decide based on an IRP report.

The IRP said that the appropriate level of basic allowance should be £16,200 per year. When this was put to councillors by Labour councillor Jude Robinson as part of a package that included a study of how to increase pay for the lowest earning staff members, there was an overwhelming vote against.

The other proposition was for a rise to £14,600 per year. This was based on the amount that the IRP had said should be paid in their last report a couple of years ago. This proposal was combined with a recommendation to review the free meals that councillors can have when attending county hall on business. This proposal was passed by 42 votes to 29.

Of those who voted (and only just over half of all councillors did):
  • the Conservative group split 12-12, 
  • the Lib Dem group split 10-10, 
  • the Independents (of various shades) backed the raise by 16 votes to 6, 
  • MK backed the raise by 3 votes to 1 and 
  • the sole Labour member voted for the raise.
Personally, I voted against the increase. Although I think it is right to consider a rise every four years (Lib Dems resisted three previous attempts led by the former Leader to raise aspects of councillor allowances), I felt that the amounts being talked about were still too much. It is true that councillors who undertake the role full time receive less than the minimum wage, but I wanted to see a rise in the basic allowance tied to cuts in the special responsibility allowances package and other benefits so that the overall effect was cost neutral. I think this would have better reflected the balance of work undertaken by councillors and been acceptable to the public.

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