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Councillor pay back on agenda – extra £200 each proposed by independent panel

Councillor pay is back on the agenda this week with proposals to increase the basic salary for all members by £200, which would increase what was a £925,000 overall pay bill last year by an extra £10,400 a year.

Always seen as a controversial subject, members of the Democratic Services Committee will meet on Thursday afternoon to discuss the proposed increase, which features as part of the draft Annual Report of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW).

The pay rate of councillors is not directly set by Wrexham Council, instead it is mainly taken out of their hands and dealt with via the IRPW – which was set up in 2008 to take such decisions from elected members.

Pay levels of senior councillors in particular has already been heavily debated this year, with three separate meetings on whether or not lead members, the mayor / deputy mayor and committee chairs should ‘exercise their discretion’ and take the lower pay grade available, which we calculated could have saved £186,000 over the course of the current Council term.

The subject was first debated by Full Council in March 2017, with a recommendation for the matter to go before the Democratic Services Committee held shortly after the local government elections.

During that meeting a mix of newly elected and longer serving councillors agreed that while the council are making such cuts to local services and facing difficult times, senior members should opt for the lower salary.

This recommendation had been due to be voted on by all 52 councillors in September 2017, however an amendment put forward by Council Leader Mark Pritchard saw 31 councillors vote in favour of retaining the current level of senior pay, subject to the new proposals put forward by the Independent Renumeration Panel Wales.

Such a report has now been released in draft form by the panel, which includes proposals to increase the basic salary for all councillors by £200. In Wrexham this would mean that councillors would receive a basic salary of £13,600 instead of £13,400 from April 2018 if such proposals are supported.

Details about the decision / pay levels are stated in this week’s report, which reads: “The main change proposed in the draft Annual Report is to increase the basic salary of Elected Members by £200 per annum to £13,600.

“The IRPW point out in their report that when setting the basic salary in 2009 it was aligned to the medium gross earnings of all full time employees living in Wales and was payable at three-fifths of that rate.

“If the alignment had continued the basic salary would now be closer to £15,000 per annum but increases have not kept pace due to the pressures on public expenditure.

“The increase proposed equates to 1.49% and would take effect from April 2018. The IRPW considers that the increase will help to limit further erosion of relative levels of remuneration in the basic salary paid to Elected Members.”

The proposals by the Independent Renumeration Panel Wales would also see the removal of the two-tier pay grade for senior members, appearing to rule out any possible £186,000 saving with the option indicating the status quo would remain if the proposals are eventually adopted.

There is already some discretion in for council’s in setting the senior salaries, with a two-tier system in place. Currently the lead members, committee chairs, mayor and deputy mayor in Wrexham receive the higher of the two pay levels, something which has resulted in three lengthy debates this year.

Under the proposals put forward by the IRPW the discretion at setting senior salaries would be removed and all councillors would receive a similar £200 increase, resulting in the following changes:

Leader of Wrexham Council: £48,100 > £48,300
Deputy Leader: £33,600 > £33,800
Executive Board Members: £29,100 > £29,300
Committee Chairs (where remunerated): £22,100 > £22,300
Leader of the Opposition: £22,100 > £22,300

The IRPW has allocated each council to a group dependent upon the population of the council area and sets differing senior salary levels for each group. Wrexham falls within Group B with a population between 100,000 and 200,000.

A decision on the increase in pay will not be made by councillors on Thursday, rather they will be asked to “consider the proposals in the draft Annual Report of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales and provide any representations or comments to incorporate in the Council’s consultation response.”

This response would need to be submitted to the panel by 29th November 2017 for consideration.

Members of the Democratic Services Committee will discuss the proposals at 4pm on Thursday 23rd November – meaning you can pop right out to the Christmas light switch on once the meeting is complete to see both the fireworks in the meeting, and then those outside.

Interested in what the elected councillor for your area thinks about pay levels? We contacted all those who ran in the election earlier this year for their views on ‘councillor pay, iPads as tools for the job, and allowances’. You can find out if your local councillor took part / what they said on our election section here.

Pic: One of four fifty pound notes each Councillor could be getting.

 

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