Members of North Northants Council will today (Thursday, June 23) vote on whether to give themselves a ten per cent pay rise.
Proposals before the council include raising the basic allowance for all 78 councillors £12,718 to £14,000 per year.
Leaders, deputy leaders and planning chairs will also get a rise in their allowance, costing the authority an extra £129,000.
The Northants Telegraph understands that the ruling Conservative group has whipped its members to ensure the proposals are accepted, but the opposition Labour group will not tell members which way to vote.
However, there are believed to be significant reservations among some Tory backbenchers, plus at least one senior council member, about the acceptability and optics of rubber-stamping proposals in the same week as the Tory Government has condemned RMT union members for striking over issues including a seven per cent pay offer.
The proposals which go before a meeting of the full council at the Corby Cube this afternoon.
It’s understood some Conservative councillors may choose not to attend the meeting rather than vote against the whip.
What do councillors get paid?
All councillors get a basic £14,000 allowance but some get extra payments to reflect additional responsibilities they take on.
As well as the £14,000 basic allowance he will get, leader Cllr Jason Smithers would see his additional allowance rise by 5.6 per cent from £27,472 to £28,890 – giving him a total annual payment of £42,890.
Deputy leader Helen Howell will get a 17 per cent rise on her current additional allowance of £18,315 – meaning her total salary will be £35,570.
Members of the council’s executive – all Conservatives – will get an extra £15,590 on top of their basic allowance, a rise of 13 per cent up from £13,736.
The leader of the Labour group, Cllr John McGhee, will not take a payrise, although his deputy Cllr Jean Addison will take an allowance for the first time of £4,070 and Green Alliance leader Cllr Emily Fedorowycz will also get £4,070.
Most committee chairs will not get an allowance increase but chairs of each planning committee and the licensing committee will get a 33 per cent rise. This is despite the cancellation of fourteen planning and licensing meetings in the past year. Chairs of area planning committees will now be paid a total allowance of £19,090.
Why are they getting a payrise?
Councillors told an independent remuneration panel that they were upset that members in neighbouring West Northamptonshire received a higher allowance than them.
The independent panel – chaired by emeritus professor of local government at De Montford University Steve Leach – heard evidence from senior councillor and officers showing that the workload of members had been ‘unprecedented’ and that they were making ‘little more than minimum wage’ given the hours they were working.
But the panel said the role of councillor was one of public service and that members should only expect payment for about 50 per cent of their work.
Their report stated: “Although the panel can well understand that comparisons between the allowances paid in North and West Northamptonshire will be made by councillors, it does not accept, as some have suggested, that the response to the disparity should be an uprating of allowances in the North to match those in the West. No responsible panel could make an emotive response of this nature, which would involve discarding the carefully thought-through methodology which informed the conclusions and recommendations of its earlier report.”
The proposals before council broadly follow the recommendations by the panel. The independent report continues: “Even if the panel felt that there was a strong argument for recommending substantial increases in allowances, which is not the case, it would be wary about doing so. The next year is likely to be a difficult one financially for the nation; inflation is rising steadily, and wage increase are not keeping pace with the cost of living. Fuel prices -domestic and motoring – are predicted to soar.
“Many councils would find it hard to justify substantial increases in members allowances in these circumstances.”
Also before the meeting will be proposals to increase the size of the council to ensure no councillors are overworked.
And what about the number of councillors?
The Northants Telegraph reported exclusively in March that a working group had been set up by NNC to look at whether the current number of councillors was sufficient to serve the needs of North Northants.
The group concluded that 78 members were not enough, and that 99 councillors were needed. This is despite the Max Caller report, which prompted the dissolution of the area’s four boroughs and county councils, stating that 45 councillors should be sufficient.
Now those proposals are to be debated by full council and, if approved, will be passed to the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. NNC will also separately conduct a review of ward boundaries, and their recommendations will go out to public consultation next year, with any changes coming into force in 2025.