Councillors’ allowances look likely to rise by almost £1,000 from April, going up 7.3 per cent from £12,118 to £13,002.
The proposed £884 rise in the basic allowance won the backing of a council committee last night (Thursday 6 December) after an independent review.
The increase is expected take effect from the annual council meeting next May – after the next local elections – and is significantly higher than the 2 per cent public sector pay award.
An official report said that the overall bill for the “members’ allowance scheme” for Brighton and Hove City Council would come to £935,000 a year.
With some allowances being cut, this would mean a saving of £20,000 compared with the cost of the current scheme.
The final say will be given to all 54 councillors at a meeting of the full council at Hove Town Hall next Thursday (13 December).
Last night, Conservative members of the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee tried to persuade colleagues to soften a cut to the allowance for the mayor of Brighton and Hove.
But the move, which would have given the mayor an allowance of £12,352, was defeated. The deputy mayor would have been granted £2,600 if the move had succeeded.
They now face a cut from £13,082 and £3,662 respectively to £9,752 and £1,950.
Conservative deputy leader Steve Bell said that the proposed drop in the mayor’s allowance recommended by the council’s Independent Remuneration Panel was too much.
Councillor Bell said: “I feel it is quite poor for the mayor’s position – the first citizen of Brighton and Hove – is held in high esteem.
“It is a role we demand a lot of. They chair the council meetings and do a great deal of work on a day-to-day basis.
“They take a whole year out of their life. They are committed to the city and committed to us.
“They are there. They are seen. They are at the front. I felt, unfortunately, the proposal put forward, the reduction, was far too much.”
Labour deputy leader Gill Mitchell spoke against the Tory proposal. Councillor Mitchell said that the panel had reached an independent decision.
She said: “We have a system here which I believe is fair. The panel brings its work to us and to then simply unpick it I think is wrong.
“This is not to denigrate the mayor or show lack of respect for the work they do but I do think we have to abide by the recommendations of the panel.”
The method for working out the basic allowance assumes that councillors work 29 hours a week at £14.37 an hour, minus 40 per cent to recognise the public service ethos. This is then multiplied by 52 weeks of the year.
The rise is partly funded by reducing the amount paid to councillors who chair committees. For most of them, the special responsibility allowance will drop from £11,200 to £9,752.
The main exceptions are for the councillors who chair the Planning Committee and the Licensing Committee. They will receive £11,337 – down from £12,215.
However, the special responsibility allowance for the leader of the council will rise from £32,142 to £32,505. But the deputy leader’s allowance falls from £22,499 to £19,503.
Those with children will be able to claim £9 an hour – in line with the living wage – for child care while undertaking approved duties up to a maximum of £1,800.
Ken Childerhouse, the chairman of the independent panel, told the committee that the panel was aware of the financial constraints on the council – and people’s perceptions.
He said: “We are aware of the constraints on members of the public, citizens of the city, faced with increases in utility bills and transport costs.
“The perception is they may not take too kindly if they thought the councillors were receiving too generous an allowance.”
Council leader Daniel Yates thanked the panel for their work in evaluating councillor’s work.
Councillor Yates said: “It is something we should avoid trying to do ourselves. It is almost impossible to judge your own value.”
The committee backed the panel’s recommendations although the final decision on the allowances will be made by the full council next Thursday.
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