Saturday, 21 May 2011

Conservative-led Council Rejects 22% Pay Increase for Councillors

Conservatives-led Lincolnshire County Council paved the way for an extra extra £250,000 to help community projects after councillors rejected plans to increase their allowances.

A cross-part consensus at Lincolnshire County Council agreed yesterday to forgo a twenty-two point two percent increase, which would have seen allowances for the seventy-seven members rise from £8,184 to £10,000, saving just shy of £140,000 a year.

A further four and a half percent inflationary increase could have swelled this figure by a further £450, but instead a freeze will be implemented until 2013.

Mileage rates will, however, increase in line with H.M. Revenue And Customs' guidance from 40p to 45p a mile.

Cash included in the council's budget for any potential allowances change will be redistributed to help community, voluntary and charitable initiatives. The Conservatives added they would have to be in the 'spirit of the Big Society'.

Yesterday's vote confirmed rumours that the ruling Conservatives were planning to kill off the controversial proposal to increase allowances. The recommendations for an increase were made by an independent panel last year. But there was still an overwhelming sense of unease in the council chamber as councillors faced the prospect of deciding their own pay.

Cllr. Mrs. Christine Talbot, Conservative (Bracebridge Heath Division) led the calls to remove the responsibility from members. She said it was a 'tricky topic' which emerged repeatedly year after year.
"I would like to suggest that because we have had an Independent Remuneration Panel. In future an independent body should be charged with setting the pay and allowances we receive as elected members to avoid any potential conflict of interest."
Cllr. Robert Parker, Labour (Lincoln West Division) said it was the right decision to implement a freeze, but the next increase could be a big one once inflation – potentially ten percent in three years – was added.
"We support this amendment but I think the difficulties are being put off until 2013."
Leader of the Opposition, Cllr. Mrs. Marianne Overton, Independent (Branston & Navenby), who misses out on a £9,000 allowance for her extra responsibilities as opposition leader, said:
"It's very difficult to decide your own salary and it's not something we should be in a position to do."
Members were informed it is a legal obligation for them to set their allowances.

Before the vote, Leader of the Council, Cllr. Martin Hill OBE, Conservative (Folkingham Rural), said accepting an increase would make it difficult for councillors to look 'employees in the eye'.

Staff are entering the third year of a pay freeze, with up to one thousand jobs under threat as the authority cuts £125 million from its budget.

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