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Councillors pay to increase – despite expression of “disappointment” at independent panel proposals

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Monday, Feb 18th, 2019.

Councillor pay is set to increase with the annual councillor salary going up by more than £260 and by £800 for senior members, despite strong feedback from councillors that such a bump would be “inappropriate in the current climate of financial austerity and on-going cuts to public services.”

The Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) has confirmed the increase in basic and senior salaries as part of its Annual Report published today.

Within the document the Panel states that it has has “consistently expressed its view that maintaining the democratic values of local governance cannot be cost free,” adding: “Members of local authorities (including co-opted and appointed members) are there to represent the interests of local people, undertake the governance of local communities, and secure appropriate value for money public services for local tax-payers through effective scrutiny for which they are accountable to their community.

“These are significant and important tasks for members of the relevant authorities within the Panel’s remit.

“Payments to members are made available to encourage a diversity of willing and able people to undertake local governance through their elected, appointed or co-opted roles.”

As a result the basic salary for councillors will be increased by 1.97 per cent to £13,868 for the next financial year – which will affect 34 elected members in Wrexham Council.

In terms of pay for leaders and members of the executive boards, the IRPW state that the aside from the basic element, the salaries “have not been increased for several years”.

The Panel continues onto say that they “consider that holders of these posts have significant functional responsibility and compared to remuneration of many other public sector roles are not well paid.”

Senior salaries – which includes council leader / deputy leader, executive board member, committee chairs, mayor and leader of the opposition will also increase.

In Wrexham this will result in the following changes:

Councillor Mark Pritchard (Council Leader): £48,300 -> £49,100
Councillor Hugh Jones (Deputy Leader): £33,800 -> £34,600
Councillor Andrew Atkinson: £29,300 -> £30,100
Councillor William Baldwin: £29,300 -> £30,100
Councillor David A Bithell: £29,300 -> £30,100
Councillor Terry Evans: £29,300 -> £30,100
Councillor D J Griffiths: £29,300 -> £30,100
Councillor David Kelly: £29,300 -> £30,100
Councillor Joan Lowe: £29,300 -> £30,100
Councillor Phil Wynn: £29,300 -> £30,100

Committee Chairs – who oversee the council’s scrutiny committees – will see pay go from £22,300 to £22,568, with the leader of the opposition, Cllr Dana Davies going from £22,300 to £22,568.

This is inclusive of the £268 increase to the basic salary that all members will receive.

Often a controversial subject – particularly with the timing of Wrexham Council approving its budget this week – the pay rate of councillors is not directly set by local authorities. Instead it is largely taken out of their hands and dealt with via the IRPW – which was set up in 2008 to take such decisions from elected members.

In November 2018 members of the democratic services committee were split on whether to support the increase.

A split vote later saw four councillors vote in favour of telling the IRPW that such proposals were ‘wrong’. Two councillors abstained from the vote and one voted against.

A month later a collective response to the Panel’s consultation to increase pay grades was signed off on behalf of Wrexham Council by leader Cllr Mark Pritchard.

Within the response to the Panel the proposed salary increase had been described as being “inappropriate in the current climate of financial austerity”

The response, which included comments from the democratic services committee and elected members, continued into say: “The Committee expresses disappointment that the IRPW intended to increase the basic and senior salaries for Elected Members for the financial year commencing April 2019, despite continued representations that this was inappropriate in the current climate of financial austerity and on-going cuts to public services.

“In addition Wrexham County Borough Elected Members have been asked to comment on the draft Annual Report. The following points are noted in response:

– If any Elected Member of Wrexham County Borough Council feels that they are cannot morally accept the increase proposed by the IRPW, they may advise the Head of Finance in writing that they wish to maintain the payment of their current salary.
– Alternatively, an Elected Member may express a wish that the increase is accepted but the increase is donated the charity.
– It is noted that the IRPW calculates the basic salary on an assumption that the basic activity required for an elected member (i.e. without the additional work required for a senior salary) is equivalent to three days’ work.
-It is recognised that Elected Members on the basic salary commonly spend well in excess of the notional three days basic salary in carrying out their roles.”

You can view the IRPW’s report and its findings in full here.

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