Senior Sunderland councillors vote down 7% allowances rise amid cost-of-living crisis

City leaders have rejected an independent recommendation to increase Sunderland councillors’ pay by 7%.

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

The latest recommendation from Sunderland’s ‘Independent Remuneration Panel’ (IRP) suggested a 7% increase for 2023/24 which would represent “an amount approximately equivalent to the total increase in council staff salaries”.

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This included proposals for annual basic allowance, which is available to all 75 city councillors, increasing from £8,369 to £8,995.

City Hall.

At a meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet on Thursday, January 19, Labour bosses confirmed they would reject the recommendation for a 7% pay rise.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “I ask cabinet to support me in recommending that council does not increase the allowance at this time and the basic allowance remains unchanged for 2023/24.”

Reports noted the Labour Group “did not consider it appropriate to implement an increase at this time, in view of the cost-of-living pressures faced by residents of the city”.

However the councillors did support the IRP recommendation that the special responsibility allowances (SRAs) for chair and vice chair of the planning and highways committee be increased.

This is being proposed to bring it in line with the SRAs received for the “comparable” positions on the licensing and regulatory committee, and means the allowances would be set at £8,369 and £4,184 for chair and vice chair respectively.

It is also proposed to backdate the allowances to implement the rise for 2022/23, due to changes agreed for the planning and highways committee at May’s annual council meeting.

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Cllr Miller said: “The panel has also recommended that the allowances for chair and vice chair for the planning and highways be aligned with those of the chair and vice chair of the licensing and regulatory committee.

“As a single planning and highways committee came into being with effect from annual council last year, the panel has recommended this change also be implemented in this financial year by an amendment of the current scheme.”

Previously there had been two council planning and highways committees, one for the east and one for west of the city.

The increase would mean the SRA for the chair of planning and highways committee would rise from the £6,277 currently in place.

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Cllr Miller is the current vice chair of planning and highways but is unable to claim the allowance for the role as he already claims a leader’s allowance.

The IRP considers views of all political groups on the council while also having regard to the members’ allowances schemes of other councils in the region.

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

The Conservative Group on Sunderland Council has already said it will vote against the IRP recommendation to give councillors a 7% increase in the basic allowance.

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They also confirmed they intend to vote against the SRA increase for the chair of planning and highways position, including the back dated payments.

The report and recommendations will now go before a full council meeting on Wednesday, January 25, where all councillors will have the chance to vote.