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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