City bosses reject calls to boost councillor payments 'while people are struggling'

City leaders have rejected an independent recommendation to increase Sunderland councillors’ pay by 2%.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 4:34 pm

Every year, Sunderland City Council is required to renew its allowances scheme and consider recommendations made by an independent panel.

The latest proposals from Sunderland’s ‘Independent Remuneration Panel’ (IRP) suggested a 2% increase for 2022/23, in line with the council’s draft Medium Term Financial Plan for staff pay awards.

This included a £167 boost to basic allowances, available to all 75 city councillors, from £8,369 to £8,536.

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Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council

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The city council’s opposition Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Independent groups have confirmed they will vote against the plans, a move Labour chiefs intend to follow.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, cautioned the council’s ruling cabinet against accepting the pay rise while families face with higher council tax bills and “another year’s austerity from an uncaring Tory government”.

He added: “I think it would be wrong for council to be seen to be giving themselves an allowance award while people are struggling with the government’s economic policy, increased [costs of] fuel and food, increased taxes and everything that’s coming our way.

Sunderland City Hall

“So I will be recommending to cabinet that we should refuse this award given those circumstances.

“We have got a strong track record on this, we have never ever given ourselves an award when the residents of the city have been struggling financially.”

The IRP considers views of all political groups on the council, while also considering the allowances schemes of other North East councils.

Despite previous recommendations to increase Sunderland City Council’s basic allowance in the past, basic allowance has remained at the same level since 2012.

Opposition Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Edgeworth, who attended the cabinet meeting, also asked whether Labour bosses would consider any cuts to special responsibility allowances (SRAs) paid to top councillors to “share the burden of cuts”.

These allowances can be claimed on top of the basic allowance by councillors in senior roles – such as the council leader, deputy leader, cabinet members, main opposition group leaders and chairs of committees.

Council leader Cllr Miller said a debate on allowances and SRAs would happen in March 2022, during the budget-setting meeting for the next financial year.

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