No pay rise for Kirklees councillors this year

Councillors in Kirklees will not receive a pay rise this year.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 11:12 am
Updated Friday, 19th March 2021, 11:14 am
Kirklees councillors will not be getting a pay rise in the 2021/22 municipal year
Kirklees councillors will not be getting a pay rise in the 2021/22 municipal year

They voted to keep their payments – known as basic allowances – at current levels for the 2021/2022 municipal year.

The freeze also extends to the extra money paid to members with senior roles such as group leaders or those who chair key committees.

Those special responsibility allowances or SRAs, which are on top of basic allowances, are to undergo a review this summer.

Any increase as an outcome of the review will be backdated to April 1, 2021. Until then they will be frozen at 2020 levels.

The recommendation was brought to full council on March 17 following a report from the Members’ Allowances Independent Review Panel (MAIRP).

The panel’s majority view was that the basic allowance awarded to all 69 Kirklees councillors should go up in line with the amount awarded to staff. That percentage pay rise has yet to be agreed.

All parties voted for the pay freeze.

Conservative group leader, Coun David Hall (Liversedge and Gomersal) said: “At this particular time when we’ve got people who have been on 80 per cent furlough wages, facing unemployment and pay freezes, we really shouldn’t even be contemplating a rise in allowances.”

Lib Dem group leader, Coun John Lawson (Cleckheaton) said it would be “inappropriate” to take a pay rise but that it was right to link allowances to staff rises.

“That’s a good thing because it stops us doing freeze upon freeze upon freeze for years and then having a massive 10 per cent hike. That looks wrong on every level. Having the incremental increase is where we should be.”

He said the allowance allowed democracy to be opened up so that anyone could afford to be a councillor “so we don’t go back to the bad old days of just businessmen and people of independent wealth can be councillors".

He added: “This is really about making democracy available to every level of society. Let’s not lose track of that.”

Green group leader, Coun Andrew Cooper (Newsome) said it would be “clearly wrong” for councillors to receive more when nurses are to get a “scandalous” one per cent pay rise.

“In that context, giving ourselves a pay rise would be incredibly insensitive and appalling.”

Coun Mark Thompson (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) said being a councillor was a vocational role for the benefit of local communities.

“This is something we do. It’s not really something we do to advance ourselves for. We have to be very mindful what we got involved in this role for. It’s almost embarrassing talking about potential pay increases at this moment in time.”

That got short shrift from Coun Erin Hill (Lab, Crosland Moor and Netherton) who said vocations covered nursing, teaching and caring for others.

“It’s quite telling to hear a Conservative politician say that those people who choose to live their lives in the service of others shouldn’t expect to be able to put food on the table as a result of doing so.

“I couldn’t be a councillor if it wasn’t remunerated. It would almost be an irresponsible decision if you had a young family to enter politics but those are the voices that we really need to hear in this chamber and beyond.

“When we make decisions there are people who are affected disproportionately by those decisions and they are the people that rely most on the services that the different levels of the state provide.

“If we aren’t hearing those voices, then the decisions that we make will be very poor ones.”

Speaking after the meeting, Coun Will Simpson (Lab, Denby Dale), chairman of the Corporate Governance and Audit Committee that proposed the freeze, said the inability of the independent panel to come to a unanimous agreement placed “a unique emphasis” on the council.

He said: “In these unique circumstances I believe council came to the right decision and I am pleased that our proposal was accepted.

“It would have been wrong to conclude that we should increase our own pay.”