Revealed: How much Sunderland’s councillors will be paid for 2019/20 - and how much they can claim for meals

Councillors have agreed to freeze their allowances for another year – despite opposition calls for a reduction.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 28 March, 2019, 13:03

At yesterday’s full council meeting, (March 27) members accepted figures from the Independent Remuneration Panel for the 2019/20 financial year.

The basic allowance for all 75 councillors will be frozen at £8,369 in addition to special responsibility allowances – positions such as cabinet, committee chairs and the mayor / deputy mayor.

Councillors will also be able to claim 45p per mile for car travel to and from meetings and up to £10.59 for an evening meal and £8.55 for lunch.

Conservative and Liberal Democrats on the council attempted to block the decision, calling for the allowances’ report to be sent back to cabinet.

But the move was voted down by the Labour group – who stressed they have not accepted an increase in allowances for the past seven years.

The proposals by both Lib Dems and Tories were previously submitted at the council’s 2019/20 budget meeting earlier this month.

Liberal Democrat proposals.

A reduction of the number of special responsibility allowances to no more than 25.

The removal of allowances to deputy cabinet members and committee chairs

Mayor and deputy mayor allowances to be scrapped in favour of having an elected chairperson

Removal of travel and subsistence expenses except when related to trips outside the Sunderland area.

Members to pay for parking and food at council meetings

Leader of the Lib Dem group, Coun Niall Hodson, said: “It reads that there are no alternative options, we disagree.

“I think it has been made abundantly clear by the Liberal Democrat Group, Conservative Group and public consultation that there are alternatives.”

Coun Hodson added that allowances should be reduced to show “councillors are sharing the burden”.

Conservative proposals included:

Basic allowance to remain the same.

Special responsibility allowances for all leadership positions to be reduced by 25%.

Allowance for deputy leader of the minority party in opposition to be reduced by 90%

Committee chair allowances to be halved

Scrapping special responsibility allowance for deputy cabinet members

Group leader, Coun Robert Oliver, said the proposals aimed to “focus cuts where the special responsibility allowances are largest”.

“Not in the basic allowance as there are a lot of councillors who don’t have special responsibility allowance and do a large amount of work,” he said.

However, Labour leaders hit back describing the requests as a “politically-motivated” election issue.

Council leader, Coun Graeme Miller, added councillors were being asked to “shoulder the burden” of council cuts.

“All councillors in this chamber have accepted no increase in allowances for seven years – by default accepting an 18% cut in the real terms spending power of their allowances,” he said.

“Councillors in this chamber have fully engaged with the pain of austerity, whereas the staff in this building have had very small pay rises, we have had nothing in seven years.”

He added: “This is not an elitist thing, councillors in this chamber are disabled, unemployed, students, working on a low wage, single parents and everything that goes with it.

“So their allowances are very important.

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“Do remember, these are ordinary people who have committed to doing a civic duty by being a councillor, with all the pressure that comes with it.”

In a report to full council, the Independent Remuneration Panel stated its role did not consider the determination of the budget allocated to the allowances scheme.

It stated: “It was to consider the roles and responsibilities of members and form a view as to whether the allowances attributed to those roles remained appropriate.

“Whilst the panel was not concerned with the actual budget allocated for allowances, it noted that when looking at the total cost of allowances with regard to either the number of members on the council or by population size, Sunderland was around the middle regionally.

“The panel remained of the view that the level of allowances was appropriate and did not consider that there was any reason to recommend changes to the scheme at this time.”

Agreed allowances 2019/20

Basic Allowance 8,369

Mayor £17,205 / Deputy Mayor £5,735

Special Responsibility Allowances

Leader of the Council £37,667

Deputy Leader of the Council £25,111

Cabinet Secretary £25,111

Leader of Majority Party in Opposition £12,556 / deputy £8,369

Leader of the Minority Party in Opposition £6,277 / deputy £4,184

Cabinet Member with Service Portfolio £20,716 / deputy £12,556

Special Responsibility Allowances: chair/ vice chair

Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee £12,556 / £6,277

Thematic Scrutiny Committee £5,179 / £2,590

Area Committee £10,350 / £6,277

Regulatory Committee £8,369

Licencing Committee £8,369

Planning and Highways Committee £6,277

Development Control Sub-Committees £6,277

Where the same person chairs the Licensing and Regulatory Committees, only one allowance will be payable but increased by a factor of 50%

Subsistence Allowances

(In the case of absence from the usual place of residence for a continuous period which exceeds 4 hours but does not involve an overnight absence, subsistence is payable)

Breakfast Allowance £6.22

Lunch Allowance £8.55

Tea Allowance £3.37

Evening Meal Allowance £10.59

For a full scheme of allowances, visit: www.sunderland.gov.uk/article/13271/Members-allowances

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service