New panel appointed to oversee councillors' allowances and expenses in South Tyneside
Town hall chiefs have approved a new committee overseeing allowances and expenses, despite concerns over the timing of the decision and a possible conflict of interest.
A review of rules on payments to elected councillors, including the amount on offer, is supposed to be carried out by an independent board every year.
After South Tyneside’s previous Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) reached the end of its term of office, borough leaders were asked to approve a new trio to take over.
An extraordinary meeting of the full South Tyneside Council was called on March 23 to vote on the new members.
The short-notice for proceedings prompted concerns from some.
Opposition Green councillor David Francis questioned the ‘poor planning’ which saw him alerted to the meeting to rule on a process carried out every four years with less than 24 hours before.
Council staff blamed administrative delays on the short notice.
“The process has taken longer than I would have hoped,” said Nicola Robason, the council’s monitoring officer, responsible for the conduct of staff and councillors.
“This has meant the report couldn’t come to an earlier meeting, because to have the new committee consider the new allowances scheme in time for the annual meeting in May they must be in place [long enough] before then.”
Labour councillor Angela Hamilton raised a possible conflict of interest for one of the proposed IRP members, after noticing they had South Shields Town Hall listed at their correspondence address with Companies House.
Robason insisted she was satisfied it was an ‘historic concern’ and no longer relevant.
The three candidate agreed to begin a four-year term of office on the IRP, lasting until April 30, 2025, were:
:: Samantha Tague, a partnerships funding manager at the National Lottery Community Fund
:: Jane Cuthbertson, chief finance officer at Tyne Coast College and Tyne Coast Academy Trust
:: Stephen Elliot, managing director at Jarrow’s HVR International Ltd., a manufacturer of High Voltage, High Energy, Non-Inductive Ceramic Carbon Linear Resistors