SOUTH Tyneside councillors are to be asked to accept a pay freeze for the second consecutive year.
An independent remuneration panel has recommended the basic allowance given to all 54 borough councillors – standing at £7,226 a year – remains the same in 2014/15.
The amount paid to the council leader, Labour’s Coun Iain Malcolm, as a special responsibility allowance will be frozen at £27,820.
Additionally, chairmen and women of various council committees and panels will continue to receive between £4,817 and £9,635.
But it has been announced that the chairman, Coun Margaret Meling, and vice chairman, Coun Pay Hay, of the new safeguarding and educational panel will in future receive special responsibility allowances of £4,817 and £2,409 respectively.
That’s a decision which has been criticised by Coun George Elsom, an independent representative and leader of the opposition on South Tyneside Council.
He said: “Naturally I welcome the freeze in members’ allowances at this time, but it’s just ridiculous to pay the chairman of this committee almost £5,000 when it meets just six times a year. That’s £800 a meeting.
“Under this administration more and more committees have been formed, creating more payments for chairmen and vice chairmen.”
Coun Iain Malcolm has responded, saying: “The council is legally obliged to have a members’ allowance scheme in operation and it is responsibility of an external independent panel to recommend the levels of such remuneration.
“Any elected member can advise that they do not wish to receive their allowance or claim expenses for the work they do.
“Despite repeatedly criticising allowances, all opposition members claim them. Coun Elsom was previously vice chairman of the pensions committee and now claims an additional allowance as leader of the opposition.”
The Independent Remuneration Panel, which took the decision to freeze the payments, is made up of Andrew Moffat, chief executive at the Port of Tyne, Des Young, a director at Siemens, and Lindsey Whiterod, principal and chief executive at South Tyneside College.
A report, to be presented to the full council on Thursday, says: “The main risk is if members’ allowances do not properly compensate them for time and costs they expend, it may become more difficult to attract people to stand as candidates for council, and it may become more difficult for existing members to carry out their role.”
Under the new recommendations, the nine members of the council’s decision-making cabinet will continue to receive £11,535 each for their roles, plus a basic allowance of £7,226, taking their pay to £18,761 – more than £360 a week.
Back in 2012/13 cabinet members received a 19.7 per cent pay hike.
And chairmen of all the borough’s community area forums saw a pay increase from £4,817 to £5,817 – up a whopping 20.8 per cent.
Last year, the panel recommended a five per cent increase for the council’s leader and deputy leader.
But Coun Malcolm and his deputy, Coun Alan Kerr, chose not to accept it as a show of solidarity with council workers.