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Independent panel tells Council to give £200 pay rise to every councillor in Wrexham

The amount councillors are paid is back on the agenda this week, with an independent panel telling Wrexham Council they need to give a £200 increase to all 52 elected representatives.

On Thursday members of the Democratic Services Committee will be asked to ‘note the changes in members’ pay – which has been put forward by the Independent Renumeration Panel for Wales (IRPW).

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

Last week the Panel published the final copy of its Annual Report, which outlined a pay increase of £200 for the basic salary for councillors across Wales. In Wrexham this would bring the basic salary for all non Executive Board / councillors in receipt of senior pay to £13,600 from £13,400 from April 2018.

In its report it is explained that during 2017 members of the Panel visited all 22 local authorities across Wales to seek their views.

As part of its findings, the IRPW explains that that “one of the observations that many members expressed was that when the basic salary is compared with a traditional paid employment – ‘a job’ – the salary is too low to attract younger people and to encourage diversity.”

The report continues: “They proposed that the level of the basic salary should therefore be raised significantly in recognition of the importance of the role of an elected member of a principal council. However, it is recognised that elected members of principal councils are not employees and are not remunerated as such.

“The financial constraints on the public sector and particularly local authorities has meant that the link with average Welsh earnings has not been maintained.

“The Panel considers that this has undervalued the worth of elected members. To avoid further erosion in relation to average earnings the Panel has decided to increase the basic annual salary to £13,600 (an increase of 1.49%).”

No rise to senior salary positions – such as leader and deputy leader of the council, leader of the opposition and executive board members – is proposed by the Panel, however each of the above would receive the £200 basic salary increase.

This would result 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

A debate on the Panel’s Draft Annual Report in November 2017 saw several members of the Democratic Services Committee challenge the proposed salary increase. Back then the majority of councillors voted in favour of the following recommendations, with four committee members abstaining from the vote.

A week ago we wrote about the fall out from the budget, with a row breaking out over the Full Council meeting, with a large part surrounding the question on if councillor pay was in the budget that was voted through. Luckily, the £10,400 amount was included in the recently agreed budget.

Previously in 2014 we amended this report from a 2014 Executive Board meeting to draw the distinction between ‘noting’ a IRPW report and ‘voting for’ the report that gives the pay rise.

As we wrote, the unanswered questions are what happens if votes-to-note does not pass and the report is not noted, or what would have happened in the scenario of the determination coming back without it being budgeted for.

Some councillors forgo their pay rises formally by writing to the finance officer. Others take it and say they donate it to charity or other good causes, and some groups decent as a whole to donate any rises – a process we are told is outside of Wrexham Council.

Top pic: A fistful of soon to be redundant paper twenties.

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