Sunderland councillors recommended for 12% pay rise - but city leaders recommend refusing extra cash

Sunderland councillors have been recommended for a 12% pay rise – though city leaders have pledged to reject what they say would be an ‘utterly wrong’ increase in allowances.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 5:46 pm
Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller

An Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) has recommended the rise in councillors’ allowances based on the rates set by comparable councils in the UK.

It came after Labour Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller asked the panel to explore the level of basic councillors allowances in Sunderland, “stressing the importance of encouraging a wide cross section of society, in particular young people, to seek election as councillors”.

IRP papers from the time read: “In this regard, the leader requested the panel to consider the level of basic allowance, in particular by reference to that paid at other metropolitan authorities. It was suggested

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Lib Dem group leader on Sunderland Council, Niall Hodson.

that setting the level at the median position of that set by others, may be appropriate.”

But now Sunderland’s ruling Labour Group and opposition groups have said they plan to reject the proposal in favour of a pay freeze for councillors in the city.

Cllr Miller said the IRP had done its job diligently and its findings are ‘thorough and reflect reality’ – but a move to increase remuneration, during a time when families across the city are facing such financial hardship, exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, would be ‘utterly wrong’.

He said: “We will be discussing the IRP’s recommendations at our cabinet meeting next week.

"However, so there is absolutely no doubt, during a time when residents face such hardship and when every penny has to be channelled into frontline services, these proposals will be rejected by the Labour Group and not recommended to full council.”

He said the decision is no reflection of the role that local councillors play, and he recognised the “huge value” members can bring to their community.

Sunderland Conservatives leader Antony Mullen said: "As ever, the Conservatives will be voting against the proposed increase in the councillors' allowances, in line with what we told the Independent Remuneration Panel.

"It is a surprise that Labour is voting against this proposal though, given the Independent Panel's report said that it was Labour asked them to look into an increase to the basic allowance in the first place.

"While we welcome there being no increase, it remains our view that there are committee related allowances that could be cut, with the savings being directed to frontline services".

Wearside Lib Dem leader Councillor Niall Hodson said the public should know Cllr Miller had asked the IRP to look at the issue of an allowance rise in the first place.

“He asked the Remuneration Panel to ‘consider the level of the basic allowance’ as it was lower than other councils,” he said.

Coun Hodson said proposing a pay rise would ‘go down like a cup of cold sick’ and his group would be voting against.

He also called on the city’s highest-paid councillors to consider taking a pay cut.

“For years Lib Dem councillors have voted to cut councillors pay and last year we cut our own councillor allowances,” he said.

“If he is serious about cutting councillors’ pay, Graeme Miller should follow the example set by myself and other opposition leaders, and take a cut to his own allowance.”

Cllr Miller said the authority had already remodelled its Special Responsibilities Allowances, scrapping 14 posts to run more efficiently.

“The Remuneration Panel reviewed the basic allowances levels that are paid to all local councillors – across the political spectrum – as part of a remodelling programme that we started at the end of 2019, that saw us cut the number of Special Responsibility Allowances by 14,” he said.

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