West Berks councillors up for 16.5% increase in allowances
West Berkshire Council will decide next week whether to approve recommendations to increase the amount it pays councillors in allowances by 16.5 per cent.
A report by the independent remuneration panel put forward the proposals despite the council needing to make savings of £5.9m in 2015/16.
Among the proposals in the Panel's report is an increase from £6,285 to £7,324 in the Basic Allowance for each of the 52 councillors – representing a total annual increase of £54,028.
Part of the changes which would come into effect in May 2016 would be offset by scrapping a £200 IT Consumables Allowance which includes paper and print cartridges, and a £200 uplift on the Basic Allowance for broadband provision.
This will save £5,200 each year according to the panel as not all councillors claim for this expense.
Explaining the recommendation Panel Chair Declan Hall said: “There is rarely an opportune moment to review Members’ Allowance and this moment is particularly inopportune.
“The main conclusion of the Panel was that the Basic Allowance, in particular, is obsolete at its current level in that it undermines one of its main purposes: namely to enable most people to be a Councillor and carry out the full range of duties expected of them without incurring undue personal financial cost.”
The report also recommends that some Special Responsiblity allowances be increased, including the Chairman of the Council who would receive an increase of £764, from £4,729 to £5,493, and the Vice Chairman an increase of £493 – from £606 to £1,099.
Both the Leader of the Council and Deputy Leader would see increases if recommendations are approved – rising by £1,533 and £776 respectively.
The report also recommends a reduction in the allowance for the leader of the main opposition – dropping from £8,379 to £7,324, and also for opposition spokespersons – from £4,190 to £2,197.
One of the UK’s largest trade unions UNISON said that it was “disappointed” that it had not been consulted on the proposals.
The West Berkshire branch of the body said in a statement: “UNISON recognises the need for allowances to be set at a level that reflects the time and commitment that councillors give to our local communities and that also encourages involvement from the broadest possible spectrum of talent within the district.
“There is however significant concern about the message that the accepting by councillors of a 16.5 per cent increase in their basic allowance will give to hardworking Council staff who have suffered real-terms cuts in their pay and significant depletions in their numbers since 2010.”
The report will next be considered at the West Berkshire Council annual meeting on Tuesday May 19.
West Berkshire Council said that they would be unable to comment until after next week's meeting.