After a vote at a full council meeting on Friday, February 21, increases in Lincolnshire County Councillors’ allowances were approved.
The changes were recommended by the Independent Remuneration Panel, and will be the first rise in the council’s allowance provision since 2008.
The IRP had previously advised the council to increase allowances in 2010, but at that point councillors decided such rises should be deferred because of the economic downturn.
With this latest vote the basic allowance given to every elected councillor will rise from £8,184 to £10,100, coinciding with the IRP’s 2010 recommendation of £10,000 with an additional one per cent to take into account the increase most employees have received.
The 2010 recommended level plus one per cent was also the starting point for a review of special responsibility allowances given to certain councillors, which were also approved to go up this year along with the overall allowances given to opposition group leaders and to the leader, deputy leader and other members of the executive.
While the majority of councillors voted in favour of the recommendations, they can still forego all or part of their allowance, just as those who voted against can still subsequently accept an increase.
Here’s what each councillor had to say about their decision:
** Coun Bob Adams refused to explain why he voted for the pay rise when contacted by the Journal.
** Coun Jo Churchill voted for the recommended increase to her basic and special responsibility allowances, and said the need for greater diversity amongst the councillors was her main reason for accepting the recommendations. She said: “Out of 77 I am one of 25 women, of these 5 are under 50 years of age, of the remaining 52 men only 7 are under 50. Many of the older councillors bring great experience however I would very much like to see a more diverse range of people being represented in our council.”
** Coun Richard Davies voted for the increase, which will result in an overall rise in his basic and special responsibility allowances of £7,640 (27 per cent). He states three reasons for accepting the increase, these being to encourage quality and diversity of councillors, to reduce the cost of democracy through his campaign for a smaller number of better paid councillors, and fairness. He said: “There’s never an easy time for politicians to take a pay rise and having not accepted a rise four years ago I feel the time is right to agree with the independent review.
“I do genuinely believe that councillors aren’t paid commensurate with what they do and the responsibilities many shoulder.”
** Coun Martin Hill, leader, reaffirmed his previous announcement that he will not be accepting the increase in his leader’s allowance from £20,448 to £32,000. In a statement he said: “This is a personal decision, and I won’t be putting other councillors under pressure to follow suit. The majority of our councillors are paid far below the average wage, yet play a vital role in our communities, spending many hours a week working on behalf of our residents. It’s appropriate they receive some support so that people from all walks of life are able to take part in local politics.”
** Coun Charmaine Morgan,the only Grantham councillor who voted against the rise, said: “Along with other Labour Group members, I voted against Lincolnshire County Councillors receiving an increase of 23.4 percent in their personal allowance because I consider such a high increase at this time to be totally insensitive to the people I represent.”
However councillors who voted against the recommendations can still accept the increase, and Coun Morgan explained: “I intend to take the allowance and after tax is deducted will use it to support my community through key campaign activity and will also make donations to local groups using the Big Society Fund criteria. However, whilst I am currently in a position to do this not everyone is. Like me, some councillors have given up other jobs, or are unable to fulfil their income potential due to council commitments.”
** Coun Marianne Overton highlighted that after not taking the recommended increase in 2008 money was instead donated to a number of charities, carers and community causes.
She said: “I voted to accept the recommendations of the Independent Panel, because I believe they were thorough and professional in their assessments they were asked to make. Councillors can certainly donate money to any cause they choose, and I shall continue to do so.
“There is still a lot of voluntary work on top of the council work and we do not want to exclude anyone from doing the job of councillor on the grounds they can’t afford it.”
** Coun Stuart Tweedale said: “The changes were recommended by an independent panel and they highlighted that Lincolnshire county councillors are among the lowest paid in the country. This therefore will be the first time allowances have been increased since 2008. Even though the proposals were accepted any member can choose to forego all or any of their allowance, if they so wish.”
** Coun Paul Wood who receives only the basic allowance which will rise from £8,184 to £10,100 said: “The allowances have been reviewed by an independent body and they recommend the revised rates. I was happy to accept their recommendation which I believe is fair and reasonable and considerably less than some other councils such as Nottinghamshire.”
** Coun Ray Wootten voted for the increase because it had been recommended, but said: “I do not think it is right to get a pay rise in these times of austerity.” His wife Coun Linda Wootten agreed and confirmed: “I will not be accepting the increase in the allowance during these austere times.”