Row over councillors’ allowance rise

COUN DAVID POTTS
COUN DAVID POTTS

SOME South Tyneside councillors are in line for inflation-busting increases to their allowances, it has emerged.

The rises to special responsibility payments have been recommended by an independent remuneration panel.

GEORGE ELSOM

GEORGE ELSOM

But they have been condemned as ‘immoral’ and ‘disgusting’ by some opposition councillors.

However, Coun Iain Malcolm, the Labour leader of the authority, said the overall allowances cash pot had not risen, stressing the independent body had agreed to certain increases in response to the restructuring of some council committees. Under the proposed changes, members of the council’s decision-making cabinet will see their yearly special responsibility allowance (SRA) rise from £9,635 to £11,535 – a hike of 19.7 per cent.

And the chairs of Community Area Forums in the borough will have their allowances increased from £4,817 to £5,817 – up 20.8 per cent.

All councillors also receive a basic yearly allowance of £7,226.

COUN IAIN MALCOLM

COUN IAIN MALCOLM

Coun George Elsom, Real Independent for Cleadon Park, has expressed dismay at the proposed increases at a time of public service cutbacks.

He said: “This is atrocious and simply immoral.

“It comes just a week after the Local Elections and it is clear South Tynesiders have been hoodwinked.

“How can they justify rises of 20 per cent when cuts are being made to jobs and services left, right and centre? This is simply shameful.”

Under the new allowances’ rates, the pension committee vice chairman’s annual payment increases from £4,817 to £7,226.

UKIP Councillor David Potts added his condemnation – despite his own record on allowances being criticised in the past.

The representative for Cleadon and East Boldon faced calls to resign last year after he continued to claim his councillor’s allowances, even though he failed to attend a council meeting for months.

He said: “It is absolutely disgusting that while our council faces huge financial pressure and is slashing front-line services and making people redundant, that we have councillors being given inflation-busting wage increases.

“How on earth can the authority justify giving cabinet members an extra £2,000 a year?

“It is a part-time role that doesn’t take up any more than around 10 hours per week.”

Coun Potts added that he would “refuse to take any and all increases in pay, as a point of principle”.

Coun Malcolm, whose own special responsibility allowance as council leader has been frozen at £26,496, said Coun Elsom ‘needs to get his facts right’.

He added: “The council agreed what pool of money to spend at the last meeting.

“The problem is there are changes to the constitution to create new committees, including the Contracts Panel and the Performance Panel.

“We are also reducing the number of scrutiny committees from four to three.

“As a consequence of rejigging the committee structure, the independent Remuneration Panel put a remuneration package in place.

“We had already agreed the amount of money in the pot, and that has not changed. Because cabinet members are now expected to attend more meetings, their allowance rises slightly.”

Under the proposals, no councillor would receive more than one SRA, and any member holding two or more posts eligible for a SRA should be paid for only the highest one.

The proposed allowances will be considered at a meeting of the full council next week.

Twitter:@shieldsgazpaul