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Councillors to debate senior pay levels – with option to save £186,000 on the table

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Tuesday, Sep 26th, 2017.

How much senior councillors should be paid will once again be back on the agenda this week, with £186,000 worth of savings possible for our Councillors if they so choose.

Councillor pay is often a controversial topic in the council chamber, with a meeting in March 2017 described as a “shambles” as Labour bungled an alternative budget proposal, and debates on it being described as a ‘bloodbath‘.

We are told our previous headlines raised eyebrows in the Guildhall wondering how we calculated the figure above, with one councillor questioning our maths due to the large sums involved.

Councillor pay decision making is in theory taken out of councillor’s hands via the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW). 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 people.

The IRPW pay report is ‘noted’ each time it comes before Councillors, and is the reason we report councillors are ‘forced’ to take pay rises. There is an option for councillors to write to the Finance Officer to forgo part or all of their renumeration if they wish.

Wrexham is described as being in Group B for the purposes of determining senior salaries with a cap of eighteen (18) overall. This is fixed by the IRPW, however there are two sub levels, which is where the question of local discretion comes in, a new option available since 2016.

In the report before Full Council on Wednesday, which should see all 52 Councillors attending, the outcome of the Democratic Services Committee is being considered – with the recommendation reading “Members consider the recommendation of the Democratic Services Committee in exercising discretion on salary levels”, the recommendation being “when setting the level of Senior and Civic Salaries to Members, the lowest level of remuneration as set out by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) be paid achieving a total annual saving of £41,700.

Said discretion is explained as being available “…to provide councils with the flexibility to recognise the differing workloads of portfolio holders in the Executive and the specific workload and responsibilities of some Chairs.”

The following explanatory table is included in the report:

The current maximum level of payments for members of the executive in Group B is as follows for Executive Board members:-

Level 1 – £29,100
Level 2 – £26,200

There are also two levels of renumeration for committee chairs, which are as follows:

Level 1 – £22,100
Level 2 – £20,100

Currently those on the Executive Board, excluding the Council Leader and Deputy Leader, are paid at the higher Level 1 salary rather than the lower Level 2.

In theory there is discretion for Wrexham Council to pay at lower levels, outlined in the below above, meaning a total annual saving of £41,700 or £208,500 over the usual 5 year term of a Council.

The table notes eight Executive Board members, rather than the ten at Wrexham Council – although readers should note two are the Leader and Deputy Leader.

As we have written previously the specific wording at the Scrutiny meeting omitted the mention of civic salaries, however the spirit of the meeting did imply they were considered as well as senior salaries, so the fate of the £4500 a year savings as the above table shows is unknown. Thus our headline total is the £208,500 minus the £22,500 five year view on the figures.

The report notes a Wales-wide picture, noting that the Scrutiny Committee was told no Local Authority within Wales had introduced differential salary levels dependent upon individual Lead Member portfolios. Likewise, it was told just two out of twenty two Local Authorities paid Senior Salary holders at the lower level within their Group and twenty at the higher level.

The report does not include the setting of the basic salary for councillors – which is £13,400 – as that is entirely set independently by the IRPW.

The report asking members to consider the recommendation of the Democratic Services Committee will go before the Full Council at 4pm on Wednesday 27th September.

The meeting will be webcast live on the Wrexham Council website from 4pm on Wednesday 27th September.

*We have spent an hour on the phone previously trying to discover what happens if the Councillors hands are not raised to note that report, however we are still not able to get to the bottom of that.

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