How political parties plan to vote on the proposed allowance rise for Sunderland councillors

Sunderland City Council’s political groups have spoken out over a proposed 2% increase in basic allowance for councillors.

Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 3:39 pm

Every financial year, the local authority is required to renew the members’ allowances scheme and to consider the recommendations of an independent panel.

The latest report from Sunderland’s ‘Independent Remuneration Panel’ (IRP), which is due to go before cabinet in January next year, recommends an increase in basic allowance.

This annual allowance is available to all 75 city councillors and has remained at the same rate for around a decade.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

City Hall

If the proposed 2% rise is approved by full council for 2022/23, the annual basic allowance would increase from £8,369 to £8,536.

The IRP report also made no recommendations to change existing special responsibility allowances which can be claimed in addition to 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.

Since the report was made public, Sunderland City Council’s opposition groups have said they will vote against the proposed 2% rise in basic allowance.

Although the council’s ruling Labour Group is set to meet to discuss the IRP proposals next year, city leaders say Labour has a long track record of voting against rises in councillors’ allowances.

Councillor Antony Mullen, leader of the Conservative Group.

Councillor Niall Hodson, leader of the Wearside Liberal Democrats, said that any pay rise for councillors cannot be justified against a backdrop of financial cuts and likely council tax rises in the council’s forthcoming budget.

He also called on Labour councillors to cut their existing allowances.

“Liberal Democrats are calling on the council’s Labour bosses to commit, now, to rejecting this pay rise for councillors,” he said.

“In addition we think the cuts to councillor allowances must go much further, and that travel, food and home broadband expenses for councillors scrapped entirely.”

Councillor Niall Hodson, leader of the Wearside Liberal Democrats

In a statement, the Sunderland Conservatives also confirmed they would be voting against the “proposed increase in councillors’ pay.”

Councillor Antony Mullen, leader of the Conservative Group, said: “We will not accept more money in our own pockets just two months before Labour’s budget will likely increase council tax again.

“We have consistently called for the total amount spent on allowances to be cut. In 2019, I voted to cut my own allowance by over £8,000 – more than any other councillor in the city.”

He added: “The proposal by the IRP to increase our pay for 2022/23 goes against the grain of what I have called for, and what my group has proposed, for a number of years.”

Council leader Graeme Miller.

Elsewhere, members of the council’s Wearside Independents Group confirmed they will be voting against any rise in basic allowance for councillors.

The city council’s ruling Labour Group is also expected to discuss the matter at a meeting in January 2022.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Over the past 10 years, Sunderland Labour Group has consistently voted against rises to councillors’ allowances.

“While opposition parties have been quick to outline their stance, we haven’t yet met as a party to discuss the issue, as our next meeting is on January 10 when we will vote on the issue.

“However, it must be said that for the Lib Dems and Tories to suggest that we are actively looking to give ourselves a pay rise is laughable given our previous voting record, which completely contradicts their unfounded comments.”

Cllr Miller went on to say: “With local elections upcoming and the general public seemingly becoming more and more disenfranchised with this Government’s absolute hypocrisy, it seems our opposition will stop at nothing to take the spotlight away from the role their two parties played in helping the Tories get into power and forcing a decade of austerity upon us.”

The IRP report prepared for cabinet can be found in the ‘meetings calendar’ section of Sunderland City Council’s website.

Support your Echo and become a subscriber today.

Enjoy unlimited access to all of our news and sport, see fewer ads, experience faster load times, test your brain with daily puzzles and get access to exclusive newsletters.

Your support for our journalism means we can continue telling Sunderland’s stories for generations to come. Click here to subscribe - and click here to get a snapshot of the Echo’s news and sport to your inbox through our email newsletters.