Battle lines drawn over councillors' allowances

Kidderminster Shuttle: Battle lines drawn over councillors' allowances Battle lines drawn over councillors' allowances

WYRE Forest District Council’s leader has slammed an independent panel on councillor allowances as having “no credibility” and wants to pull out of the Worcestershire-wide scheme.

Councillors are due to vote at a meeting tonight on 2014/15 allowances, as well as the budget and a 1.94 per cent council tax rise for the next financial year.

For the fourth year in a row, the ruling Tories have recommended to freeze councillor allowances - the highest in Worcestershire - rather than slash most of them to save about £50,000. Leaders also want to withdraw from using the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) in future.

This year’s vote, however, is set to be closer than ever as the Conservatives, with 19 out of 42 members, will have to rely on other parties to pass their proposals.

Leader, Conservative John Campion said the panel had not been able to demonstrate any “adequate level of rationale for its recommendations” but opposition leader, Independent Community and Health Concern councillor Graham Ballinger, claimed it was because the panel was “coming up with stuff the administration do not want to hear”.

The IRP’s report shows the average allowance per councillor at Wyre Forest - £6,732 - is the highest in Worcestershire, with Bromsgrove District Council a distant second with £5,851.

The panel recommends slashing basic allowances - which all 42 councillors receive - from £4,900 to £4,200. It recommends increasing the leader’s allowance by £350 from £12,250 to £12,600 but says deputy leader, Conservative Marcus Hart, should see his remuneration cut by £1,800 from £9,188 to £7,350.

It says special responsibility allowances for the five committee vice-chairmen should be scrapped but the administration wants to continue to hand four of them £1,225 each.

Mr Campion said: “We have always said we want to reduce the cost of democracy, hence when we implement the reduction in the number of councillors we will save more money than the IRP are trying to. We do not believe the current IRP has any credibility.”

He added: “I do not think the people of Wyre Forest would support my allowances going up.”

Mr Ballinger said the panel did have credibility, adding: “I think it is disappointing to say the only way out of having to go through this annual embarrassment is to say we will discredit the panel and not use them in the future because it is not giving them the recommendations they want.”

Labour and the Liberal and Independent group have also proposed adopting the IRP’s recommendations for 2014/15 in their respective alternative budgets.

To find out what happens at the meeting, see The Shuttle website at kidderminstershuttle.co.uk or follow us on twitter @ksshuttle

Comments (11)

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9:33am Wed 26 Feb 14

Poppasmurf says...

How has this council come to the conclusion that a Council Tax rise of 1.94% is justified?
How has this council come to the conclusion that a Council Tax rise of 1.94% is justified? Poppasmurf
  • Score: 1

10:34am Wed 26 Feb 14

DOEPUBLIC says...

If you are not happy with the £350, Mr Campion you could make your individual choice to give it to charity or refuse to accept the increase as an amendment. I am happy to pay any justified increase in council tax, but wonder why an additional 0.06% is not included.
If you are not happy with the £350, Mr Campion you could make your individual choice to give it to charity or refuse to accept the increase as an amendment. I am happy to pay any justified increase in council tax, but wonder why an additional 0.06% is not included. DOEPUBLIC
  • Score: 7

10:41am Wed 26 Feb 14

DOEPUBLIC says...

As commented last year "Conservative John Campion replied: “If truly believed that they would not take , they would refuse them but they do not.” "
As commented last year "Conservative John Campion replied: “If [Labour] truly believed that they would not take [their full allowances], they would refuse them but they do not.” " DOEPUBLIC
  • Score: 5

10:46am Wed 26 Feb 14

DOEPUBLIC says...

And previously in 2013 the article states M'r Campion’s allowance, as council leader, will remain at £12,250 despite the IRP recommending it should be £350 higher.'
And previously in 2013 the article states M'r Campion’s allowance, as council leader, will remain at £12,250 despite the IRP recommending it should be £350 higher.' DOEPUBLIC
  • Score: 8

10:52am Wed 26 Feb 14

BewdleyBugle says...

Mr Campion's increase of £350 is dwarfed by the proposed reduction of £700 for every councillor, and I for one would take the recommendations of an independent panel over the alternative - politicians deciding on their own allowances.
Mr Campion's increase of £350 is dwarfed by the proposed reduction of £700 for every councillor, and I for one would take the recommendations of an independent panel over the alternative - politicians deciding on their own allowances. BewdleyBugle
  • Score: 19

2:49pm Wed 26 Feb 14

emjaypee says...

Councillors BEWARE there are elections in May. If we are all in it together then let's see some proof.
I would urge everyone to take note of how their councillors vote then hold them to account come polling day. Of course some will not yet be up for re-election this year but keep your eye on how they vote and put it on your calendar for next year & the year after in May ready for the next round of elections each year.
Councillors BEWARE there are elections in May. If we are all in it together then let's see some proof. I would urge everyone to take note of how their councillors vote then hold them to account come polling day. Of course some will not yet be up for re-election this year but keep your eye on how they vote and put it on your calendar for next year & the year after in May ready for the next round of elections each year. emjaypee
  • Score: 23

3:19pm Wed 26 Feb 14

jon cooper says...

Be it public opinion; or the recommendations of an independent panel; it is clear that 'Councillor Campion and Co' will continue to refuse point blank to listen to anyone but themselves. Mr Campion declares that the IRP have no credibility, and actually wants to pull out of the Worcestershire-wide scheme. My only shock is that WFDC as a whole didn't want to pull out much earlier !

With the realization that average allowance per councillor at Wyre Forest is the highest in Worcestershire, it makes me question who actually has credibility; the IRP for highlighting clear facts - or Councillor Campion for annually ignoring them ...
Be it public opinion; or the recommendations of an independent panel; it is clear that 'Councillor Campion and Co' will continue to refuse point blank to listen to anyone but themselves. Mr Campion declares that the IRP have no credibility, and actually wants to pull out of the Worcestershire-wide scheme. My only shock is that WFDC as a whole didn't want to pull out much earlier ! With the realization that average allowance per councillor at Wyre Forest is the highest in Worcestershire, it makes me question who actually has credibility; the IRP for highlighting clear facts - or Councillor Campion for annually ignoring them ... jon cooper
  • Score: 2

12:30pm Thu 27 Feb 14

HowardM says...

I think it is worth making the point that, although the IRP recommended a £350 pa rise in the Leaders allowance, overall it recommended total cuts in Members allowances of over £56k. The basic allowance was to be cut from £4900 to £4200 with bigger cuts in Special Responsibility Alowances paid mainly to members of the current administration. So to avoid an increase of £350 in the Leaders allowance, the Tories, Liberals and ICHC voted to freeze the allowances at the current levels so denying the cuts of £56k in council expenditure. Only Labour and the two independent Councillors (The Dykes) voted in favour of the cuts recommended. The freeze referred to (in a later report) wasn't against an overall rise in allowances but an overall cut.
The Tories often say that no member needs to accept the allowance and that is true - so the Leader could always have refused to accept the increase recommended to him but allow the report to be adopted so enabling the cutting of allowance sto 41 other Councillors and saving residents over £56000 which could be better spent.
Every Councillor in the country in gets an allowance by law so Wyre Forest is no different - overall basic allowances in similar Councils range from about £1500 to £10000 pa, so locally we are about in the middle. Most Councils use an independant panel to access them. But if you appoint a panel then you accept its findings. However this is the third year the report hasn't been "liked" by the Tories and their Council "chums" but you can't appoint advisors to recommend something then say its "flawed" because you dont agree with its findings.
Next year we can start again since the number of councillors reduces to 33 and a new panel with a fresh eye can recommend accordingly, but this year the sitting panel recommendations should have been adopted and that was what the Labour Group voted for and why we unanimously voted against this years Budget.
I think it is worth making the point that, although the IRP recommended a £350 pa rise in the Leaders allowance, overall it recommended total cuts in Members allowances of over £56k. The basic allowance was to be cut from £4900 to £4200 with bigger cuts in Special Responsibility Alowances paid mainly to members of the current administration. So to avoid an increase of £350 in the Leaders allowance, the Tories, Liberals and ICHC voted to freeze the allowances at the current levels so denying the cuts of £56k in council expenditure. Only Labour and the two independent Councillors (The Dykes) voted in favour of the cuts recommended. The freeze referred to (in a later report) wasn't against an overall rise in allowances but an overall cut. The Tories often say that no member needs to accept the allowance and that is true - so the Leader could always have refused to accept the increase recommended to him but allow the report to be adopted so enabling the cutting of allowance sto 41 other Councillors and saving residents over £56000 which could be better spent. Every Councillor in the country in gets an allowance by law so Wyre Forest is no different - overall basic allowances in similar Councils range from about £1500 to £10000 pa, so locally we are about in the middle. Most Councils use an independant panel to access them. But if you appoint a panel then you accept its findings. However this is the third year the report hasn't been "liked" by the Tories and their Council "chums" but you can't appoint advisors to recommend something then say its "flawed" because you dont agree with its findings. Next year we can start again since the number of councillors reduces to 33 and a new panel with a fresh eye can recommend accordingly, but this year the sitting panel recommendations should have been adopted and that was what the Labour Group voted for and why we unanimously voted against this years Budget. HowardM
  • Score: 15

2:09pm Thu 27 Feb 14

Shibdrift says...

Grunt, grunt, snuffle, snuffle.
Grunt, grunt, snuffle, snuffle. Shibdrift
  • Score: -4

10:50pm Thu 27 Feb 14

Stephen Brown says...

Mr Campion says he wants "to reduce the cost of democracy".

He could start by slashing the allowances; but no, he'd rather reduce the number of councillors knowing it will likely cement the Tory stranglehold on power and ensure he and his own inner circle will carry on drawing the allowances to which they have become accustomed. That's the agenda, and the reality is that he and his cohort have actually demonstrated their contempt for democracy given their past actions in ignoring public views. The mantra seems to be about reducing democracy rather than its cost.

At least some councillors demonstrated some opposition rather than trotting into the chamber like sheep.
Mr Campion says he wants "to reduce the cost of democracy". He could start by slashing the allowances; but no, he'd rather reduce the number of councillors knowing it will likely cement the Tory stranglehold on power and ensure he and his own inner circle will carry on drawing the allowances to which they have become accustomed. That's the agenda, and the reality is that he and his cohort have actually demonstrated their contempt for democracy given their past actions in ignoring public views. The mantra seems to be about reducing democracy rather than its cost. At least some councillors demonstrated some opposition rather than trotting into the chamber like sheep. Stephen Brown
  • Score: 14

6:08pm Fri 28 Feb 14

jflawson says...

I find it intriguing that J.P.C. Commenting on this issue, when the jungle drums are beating that he is being considered or has accepted as a parliamentary candidate for a as yet not known Tory seat. Also with all his offices how can he do all the jobs satisfactorily as I am Rock Parish Councillor who has not seen a County Councillor Report for over 2 years presented to R.P.C . Me thinks he is spreading himself to thinly to serve all the people he represents Especially as expenses are still a contentious area in the House of Commons.
I find it intriguing that J.P.C. Commenting on this issue, when the jungle drums are beating that he is being considered or has accepted as a parliamentary candidate for a as yet not known Tory seat. Also with all his offices how can he do all the jobs satisfactorily as I am Rock Parish Councillor who has not seen a County Councillor Report for over 2 years presented to R.P.C . Me thinks he is spreading himself to thinly to serve all the people he represents Especially as expenses are still a contentious area in the House of Commons. jflawson
  • Score: 3

Comments are closed on this article.

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