Durham councillors reject suggested pay rise - and call for the decision to be taken out of their hands
Councillors have turned down a proposed pay rise – and suggested the Government change the rules on how such things are decided.
Elected members of Durham County Council are entitled to a ‘basic allowance’ worth £13,300 every year.
But proposals by an independent panel to increase it by less than one per cent to account for inflation have been rejected, meaning the payout will remain at the same level it has been at for more than a decade.
The decision had cross party backing, with Conservative opposition leader Richard Bell telling councillors: “Given that there hasn’t been an increase since 2009, a modest increase of 0.7% is not undeserved.
“But clearly now is not the time, given the effects of COVID on the finances of many of our residents and businesses.”
Cllr Bell was speaking at a meeting of Durham County Council on January 20, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.
The council’s Independent Remuneration Panel suggested an increase in the allowance linked to inflation over the previous year, which would have seen payments rise by 0.7%, from £13,300 to £13,393.
However, there was no ‘attempt to address backdated inflation’ from the last time last time allowances were set, which could have seen the cost per councillor balloon by 35%, to almost £18,000 per year.
As well as rejecting the suggesting increase, the leader of the council, Labour’s Simon Henig, and Liberal Democrat opposition leader Amanda Hopgood, suggested the power to set allowances should be taken away from local authorities.
However, both conceded this would require a change in rules by the Government.
Cllr Hopgood said: “It comes forward every year that we have to look at this and it is just not right that as an authority we should be voting on whether we get a pay or allowance increase.
“It needs to be changed across the board for all local authorities.”
According to a report for councillors, within the North East, County Durham has the second most generous basic allowance for its elected officials, after Northumberland, which pays £14,379 per year.
But per head of population, the county has one of the lowest rates, costing each taxpayer £3.81, compared to more than £5 in Darlington and Redcar and Cleveland.