To consider and provide a recommendation to Cabinet on the proposals set out in the attached report.
Lee Colyer, Director of Finance, Policy and Development introduced the report set out in the agenda. Ben Garland from JIRP Panel provided a brief summary of the report.
Discussion and questions from Members included the following:
- The review exercise started in July 2022 with the report being finalised in October/November.
- When considering the level of special responsibility allowance, the panel reviewed other authorities and if the mean average was higher then the recommendation to TWBC was to raise the level of allowance to a similar amount. This was the reason for the recommendation for the Overview and Scrutiny special responsibility allowance to be raised from £2,000 to £2,500.
- Member’s allowance of £5,500 came into effect in 2016. This amount remained in line with other Councils so the recommendation was that this remained unchanged. However, for future years, it was recommended the allowance was indexed linked in line with Council staff pay increases.
- Special responsibility allowance was paid in addition to the basic Members allowance.
- The Opposition Group Leader recommended allowance was £5,500 and would be paid only if the Opposition Leader was not in Cabinet (i.e. they would not receive both the Cabinet allowance and the Opposition Leader allowance). In total therefore, they would receive the Members allowance of £5,500 plus the Opposition Leader allowance of £5,500.
- The method used for setting allowances was by comparative analysis. The panel looked at groups of Councils to ensure that there was parity within the group.
- Workload levels did not form part of the assessment process.
- From discussions, it was determined there was a higher burden of workload for the Chair of Planning which was why it was held at its current level of £5,500. The amount was also comparable with other Councils.
- In terms of the Opposition Group Leader the amount was set in part due to a historic anomaly where previously you could be in Cabinet but also receive an Opposition Leader allowance. This had now been removed and the amount was now comparable with other Councils.
- The panel must assess the allowances as per the current composition. They could not predict what changes may or may not occur as a result of any changes to the boundaries or to the number of Councillors.
- The decision on what allowances were appropriate rested with Full Council. As such, if a review took place and boundaries changed, the Council could request a reassessment of allowances.
- There was concern that the drop in allowances was untenable and would not be allowed in other sectors.
- It was suggested that there should be no change in the schedule of allowances, that they remained fixed until the Council determined otherwise – i.e. that they didn’t rise in line with increases given to Council staff (indexation).
- There was recognition that TWBC were slightly out of sync with other Councils and so there was a need to readdress the balance.
- In terms of the level of allowances, there was support for the level recommended for the Leader and for Cabinet. However, it was proposed that the Chair of Planning and the Leader of the Opposition should be on £4,000 (rather than £5,500), all other Committee Chairs should be on £2,000, with Co-optees receiving £1,000 (rather than £800). It was suggested this would provide a much better balance and better represented the level of contributions made.
- The report acknowledged the social contribution made by Councillors. The recommended changes would not achieve a great deal and therefore they should remain unchanged.
- It was confirmed that Councillors could only receive one Special Responsibility Allowance.
- It was suggested that the £275 per Member Group Leader’s allowance should be dropped. The rest should be held until 2024.
- The recommendation to Cabinet should be Option A – to keep the current scheme.
RESOLVED – That Option A (To Keep the Current Scheme) of the Report be recommended to Cabinet.