`

Councillor feels ‘attacked for speaking up’ over authority’s 4% allowance rise

editorial image

A councillor who was shouted down by colleagues for criticising a decision to boost allowances by 4% has claimed she was “attacked for speaking up”.

Councillors in South Tyneside a 2% rise in allowances for this year, backdated to April 1, and a further 2% rise for 2019/20 after an

Independent Remuneration Panel recommended the increase.

Coun Angela Hamilton, who was elected to Beacon and Bents ward in May, questioned the allowances scheme at South Shields Town Hall and compared the rises to other authorities in the North East.

After questioning the number of hours councillors and cabinet members spend on council business, the chamber erupted in protests with a point of order made under the councillor code of conduct to halt the speech.

After the meeting, Coun Hamilton said she was calling for an explanation behind the allowances rise and whether it was needed.

She said: “I’m not saying councillors don’t work hard but I don’t think every councillor works twelve hours a week.”

She also questioned how representative the independent panel who set the rises were and the number of committee heads who receive special responsibility allowances compared to other councils.

South Tyneside Council’s independent remuneration panel is made up of chief executive officer of the Port of Tyne, Andrew Moffat, Des Young of Siemens and non-executive director of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, Alan Clarke, a council report states.

Coun Hamilton added: “I was quite upset by the number of councillors who were turning and attacking me and I thought it was quite inappropriate. I feel like I was being attacked for speaking up for something.

“I’m not saying I shouldn’t have allowances either, I just want people to think about it properly before nodding it through.”

The councillor added she would be donating her allowance raise to food banks in the area.

Chief whip for the South Tyneside Labour group, Coun John McCabe called the point of order at the meeting which read: “No councillor will stand up in this chamber and accuse anybody of improper motives, that’s what is happening here.”

After the meeting, he added: “Coun Hamilton signed up as a Labour party councillor, she didn’t sign up as a Conservative party councillor and she must abide by the rules. I can’t make any further comment.”

Elected members will now be able to claim £7,517 a year – and £7,667 a year from April 2019 – in addition to any special responsibility allowance they recieve.

This marks a rise of nearly £300 in basic allowance for councillors over the two years. Council leader Iain Malcolm will earn £27,570 this year and £28,121 next year.

The decision also marks the third increase in allowances since 2016.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service