South Tyneside councillor silenced during allowances rise speech

A new councillor was shouted down at a meeting after questioning whether councillors were worth a four per cent rise in allowances.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 8:05 pm
Updated Friday, 27th July 2018, 11:52 am
South Shields Town Hall

Members of South Tyneside Council have accepted a 2% rise in allowances for this year, backdated to April 1, and a further 2% rise for 2019/20 - as recommended by an independent remuneration panel.

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.

Coun Angela Hamilton

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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

Coun Angela Hamilton, who was elected to the Beacon and Bents ward earlier this year, questioned the allowances scheme and compared the rises to other authorities in the North East.

Speaking at the meeting in South Shields Town Hall, she conceded the basic allowance is the “lowest in Tyne and Wear” but questioned the number of committee chairs and vice chairs receiving special responsibility payments.

She said: “Most concerning is the extra £5,000 paid to members on the Police and Crime Panel which, compared to the £439 paid by Newcastle, the only other authority who pay this, could be seen as a bit excessive.

“I’m not saying we don’t work hard but can we honestly say that we all spend at least 12 hours a week on council business every week of the year and that our cabinet members spend 30 hours every week?

“Based on the average wage in South Tyneside that’s how many hours you would have to do to earn the allowance.”

The comments caused protests in the chamber with Coun John McCabe proposing a point of order that the councillor shouldn’t be allowed to continue.

He cited the councillor code of conduct clause around “accusing anyone of improper motives” with fellow councillors backing the decision to cut the speech short.

Cabinet member for Resources and Innovation, Ed Malcolm, said the council was “legally obliged” to agree the new allowances and that any changes would be subject to review by the independent panel.

Although South Tyneside Council finished the 2017/18 year around half a million pounds under budget, it also marks the third increase in allowances since 2016.

A council report states the new allowances scheme will “ensure diversity” in the background of people seeking to become councillors alongside  “properly compensating for their time and costs that they incur”.

It adds the rises are also linked to the splitting of the former Education and Safeguarding Panel into two new panels.

South Tyneside Council’s only opposition councillor, Jeff Milburn, speaking after the meeting, said that “South Tyneside Council is good value for money compared with other councils in the area.”