Agenda item

Review of Members' Allowances 2024

To consider the report of the Chair of the Independent Remuneration Panel concerning the review of Members’ allowances and seeking a decision on an appropriate scheme for the payment of allowances in 2024-25.


11.1    Mr Graham Russell, Chair of the Independent Remuneration Panel presented the report.  He advised that the Panel had undertaken a minor review following a detailed review of Members’ allowances in 2023 and had identified a number of recommendations, summarised as follows:


·       The Basic Allowance and Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) for the Vice Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee were both reviewed, but no changes were proposed at this time; however, the Panel reasserted the recommendation that any flat rate pay increase awarded to officers should be applied to Members’ allowances.

·       A new structure for the SRAs for Group Leaders and Deputy Group Leaders was proposed, which would also see the deletion of the two Opposition Group maximum, making these those SRAs available to any number of Groups. The Panel agreed that all political Group Leaders had an important and equal role to play in the good governance of the Council. On that basis they had recommended that each Group Leader and Deputy Group Leader should receive an equal amount to reflect that contribution, supplemented by a variable amount according to group size. The Panel had determined a set of figures and bands for the variable element which they believed to be appropriate and could be applied to any future political composition of the Council. 

·       The Panel had noted the limited take up of the dependent and childcare allowances available to support Councillors fulfil their Council commitments. Mr Russell noted that this was a national issue, due in part to the required annual publication of allowances received. Despite this, the Panel were keen to ensure that those allowances were reflective of the real costs incurred, and therefore recommended that they be increased to a more realistic figure, which could assist with removing the barriers for those interested in standing for election.


11.2    Councillor Hilton asked how the Panel had arrived at the bands for the Group Leader and Deputy Group Leader allowance and noted that he would have opted for 2-4, 5-11 and 12-19. Mr Russell explained that, while the Panel considered the proposed bands to be reasonable, they were not wedded to them and would not object if the Council decided to adjust them.


11.3    Councillor Williams commented there was a lack of awareness of the dependent and childcare allowances amongst some Councillors. With the upcoming elections, Councillor Williams suggested that prospective candidates should be informed of the allowances available to them by the respective political Groups.


11.4    The Chair commented that the childcare allowance had also seen a low take up, but welcomed the recommendation that it be amended to ensure that it always reflected the living wage. He added that political Groups do encourage their Members to take advantage of the allowances made available to them, but that a lot of Councillors rely on family and friends to provide childcare cover so that they don’t claim expenses.


11.5    Mr Russell advised that the next full review would be undertaken in 2027 however the Scheme would continue to be monitored on an annual basis.


11.6    The Chair suggested that the Panel could review the bands for the Group Leader and Deputy Group Leader allowances at the next review by which time the Council would also have a clear indication on the political make-up of the Council.


11.7    Councillor Hilton supported this and noted that the workload for those post-holders would be dependent on whether the Council had a majority Administration or as in a position of no overall control.


11.8    Mr Russell recognised that the Panel may be requested to look at other parts of the scheme which may fit better with the make up of the Council following the May elections.


11.9    RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND TO COUNCIL that the recommendations contained in the Report of the Independent Remuneration Panel (Appendices 1) be approved.


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