SOUTH Tyneside councillors are to be asked to accept a pay freeze over the next year.
An independent remuneration panel has recommended that the basic allowance given to all 54 borough councillors – currently standing at £7,226 a year – remains the same in 2013/14.
Separate payments to cabinet members, chairmen and women of Community Area Forums, and various council committees will also be frozen.
The panel did recommend that the special responsibility allowances paid to the leader and deputy leader of the council, Coun Iain Malcolm and Coun Alan Kerr, should rise by five per cent.
But Coun Malcolm, who receives £26,496 for his leadership role, says he and his deputy would be rejecting that increase, saying it would “not be right” in the economic climate.
Meanwhile, two councillors will be nominated as members of the new Police and Crime Panel – receiving £4,800 each for their duties – at the full council meeting tomorrow.
That will still cost the authority less than the £11,000 previously paid to its one representative on the former Police Authority, the body the new panel is replacing.
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 the basic allowance of £7,226, taking their pay to £18,761 – more than £360 a week.
Last year, cabinet members received a 19.7 per cent pay hike – as again recommended by the remuneration panel.
And chairmen of all the borough’s community area forums (Cafs) saw their pay increase from £4,817 to £5,817 – up a whopping 20.8 per cent.
Coun Malcolm said: “The panel looked at the increased workload of myself as leader and the deputy leader and recommended a five per cent rise, but we will not be accepting that this year.
“I don’t feel at the moment it would be the right thing to increase my allowance. We should not be looking at that until our staff receive a reasonable pay settlement.”
Borough council staff have endured a three-year pay freeze.
During that time, the council has made cost savings of more than £75m and more than 1,000 posts have been shed.
Unison has also recommended rejection of a new 0.6 per cent pay rise for council staff in 2013/14, an offer trade union bosses labelled “derisory”.
Last year, Forum 50, the Older People’s Parliament in South Tyneside, conducted a public petition over a call for members’ allowances to be cut by 50 per cent.
It was signed by almost 4,000 borough residents, but the proposal, and a move to reduce the number of councillors in each ward from three to two, was rejected by council chiefs.
Today Greenwall Jewitt, chairman of Forum 50, described the proposed allowances freeze as “just not good enough”.
He said: “This council has shown total disregard for the people of South Tyneside.
“I’m not against councillors being reimbursed financially for costs incurred but too many are treating it like a full time job, with certain members earning more than £30,000.
“A pay freeze is not good enough. It is the council taxpayer who is left to foot the bill – not the independent remuneration panel that is recommending this.”
Payments to chairmen and vice chairmen of council committees range from £9,635 and £7,226 (overview and select committees) to £7,226 and £4,817 (the appeals panel).
The full council is to meet in the committee suite at South Shields Town Hall from 6pm tomorrow.