Issue - decisions
The chairman welcomed David Rees again and took the opportunity to thank John Evans, the previous chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), for his many years of dedication as chairman. Members agreed to send John Evans a letter of thanks.
David Rees explained that he had lived in St Briavels for 30 years and had been a member of the IRP for two years. He hoped he could follow the example of John Evans.
He presented report LD.389, commenting that the panel's remit was to ensure that allowances paid were sufficient for anyone to become a councillor without being out of pocket. The panel had listened to eight councillors during January and had taken evidence from other local councils and the council's identified 'family' of councils. In their deliberations panel members had been mindful of the current economic conditions, which were affecting elected members in their work. He emphasised that the panel only made recommendations and that if members believed the allowance to be too high, they did not have to claim it. He invited questions.
The chairman thanked David Rees and the panel for its work.
Cllr Thomson recognised the points in the report and proposed the following amendment, which was seconded by Cllr Molyneux.
That recommendation a) in report LD.389 be changed to read 'that the basic allowance remain at the 2011/12 rate of £4250
Speaking to his amendment Cllr Thomson agreed that the council needed to encourage a broad membership. He recognised that working councillors could lose pay and pension, so for them there was a real cost. He asked members of the public present to ignore recent claims in local newspaper that allowances were at £10,000. He believed that the council's allowance level was within five per cent or so of the average. He also asked members to bear in mind possible governance changes ahead such as a reduction in membership and a return to a committee style system.
Cllr Molyneux thanked David Rees, John Evans and the other panel members for an excellent report and said that it he was sorry to have to turn down their recommendation regarding the basic allowance. He pointed out that the Local Government Association had announced earlier in the day that it would again not be offering an increase to local authority employees. He thought that councillors should act similarly. He too would welcome more diversity in the membership and the council needed to look at ways of attracting a broader representation.
Cllr Winship asked which council appointment to an outside body had attracted a special responsibility allowance (SRA) and also why some councils did not pay SRAs to council chairmen and standards committee chairmen.
The Democratic Services Manager and Cllr Smart confirmed that an allowance had been paid for one year for being on the county's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, but that this was no longer the case.
Cllr Hogan reminded members that the chairmen of standards committees were always independent of the council and not elected councillors.
Cllr Winship said that she supported a freeze on allowances and agreed that the council needed to look at ways of attracting a broader membership, particularly among younger people. She commented that the role had become more time-consuming over recent years.
Cllr Bill Evans endorsed the amendment and was particularly mindful of council staff whose pay had not increased for several years. Those that remained often filled several roles.
Cllr Molyneux agreed that staffing had decreased by a third over recent years, but he believed they were now motivated. Sickness levels were half of the previous year, there was less 'silo' working and the last staff survey showed satisfaction had grown. The Chief Executive position had been deleted, but there was excellent leadership and he believed that the staff did a fantastic job in the current climate.
Cllr Osborne commented that councillors were paid travel expenses to attend meetings, which was effectively for going to work. He asked if employees received the same. He added that the Automobile Association suggested that 24 pence per mile would be a more suitable level to cover costs.
The Head of Paid Service replied that staff could not claim travel expenses for travelling from home to work. The 45 pence per mile was paid for all eligible journeys to both staff and councillors and was based on the HRMC taxable rate.
a) that the basic allowance remain at the 2011/12 rate of £4250
b) The Cabinet special responsibility allowances remain at the 2011/12 levels
c) That the special responsibility allowances remain at the 2011/12 levels.
d) That no councillor should receive more than one special responsibility allowance.
e) To accept the recommendations at section 5 of this report regarding other matters including travelling and subsistence as detailed in Annex D.
Voting was as follows.
For (47) – Norman Stephens, Roger Yeates, Jim Connell, Gethyn Davies, Brian Jones, Brian Edwards, James Bevan, Judy Davis, Frankie Evans, Carole Allaway Martin, Marrilyn Smart, Len Lawton, Peter Ede, Marion Winship, Gabriella Kirkpatrick, Roy Birch, Arthur Thomas, Julia Gooch, Ian Whitburn, Dave East, Maria Edey, Philip Burford, Clive Elsmore, Paul Hiett, Graham Morgan, Max Coborn, Frank Baynham, Bill Osborne, Paul McMahon, Roger Sterry, David Thomson, Bill Evans, Bernie O’Neill, Don Pugh, Bruce Hogan, Val Hobman, Lynn Sterry, Di Martin, Jackie Fraser, Helen Stewart, Terry Glastonbury, Terry Hale, Diana Edwards, Martin Quaile, Patrick Molyneux, Brian Robinson, Jane Horne