Senior councillor slated over £5,000 pay rise

Coun. Mel Spedding

Coun. Mel Spedding

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A SENIOR councillor has been criticised for accepting a 25 per cent pay rise.

Coun Mel Speding, who was appointed cabinet secretary last year, has had his special responsibility allowance (SRA) increased from £20,716 to £25,111.

All councillors can claim a basic allowance of £8,369 with extra payments paid on top of that to those with special posts.

Allowances are intended to compensate councillors for time spent carrying out their duties.

The cabinet secretary role is a new one within the council structure and an independent panel decided it should have the same SRA as the deputy leader of the authority.

However, it has sparked criticism, coming during the economic downturn, while workers at the cash-strapped council are enduring a pay freeze for the third consecutive year.

Coun Robert Oliver, leader of Sunderland Conservatives, said: “The Conservative Council Group opposed any rise in councillors’ allowances whilst public sector workers are subject to a pay freeze.

“That includes the 25 per cent increase in salary accepted by Coun Speding.

“Although the rise was recommended by an independent panel, there was no obligation on anyone to take it and, at the last budget meeting, we moved an amendment to cancel the rise, but every Labour councillor voted against it.”

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson said: “The position of cabinet secretary is a new role in the council structure.

“It was the considered opinion of the Independent Remuneration Committee that the SRA for that new role should be the same as that of the Deputy Leader, which is £25,111.

“Government guidance provides for SRAs to be paid to members who have significant additional responsibilities, over and above the generally-accepted duties of a councillor.

“This is a new post and the level of the allowance reflects the duties and the responsibility that goes with it.

“The report and recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Committee, which have been accepted by both cabinet and council, are a matter of public record.”

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