Plan to increase Kirklees councillors' pay is 'outrageous', says leading Lib Dem

Plans to increase Kirklees councillors’ pay by almost a third have been branded “outrageous” by a leading Liberal Democrat peer who says the huge pay hike cannot be justified when people are struggling with the cost of living crisis.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 20th July 2022, 6:00 am

Baroness Kath Pinnock, who is also a long-serving member of Kirklees Council representing Cleckheaton, argued against a recommendation that the basic allowance for 69 councillors in the borough should go up by almost a third to £18,000 over the next three years.

She was reacting to a suggestion that councillors should get more money to “reflect the scale of work and commitment necessary” in carrying out the role – and to attract new blood to the council chamber.

Instead she said elected members’ allowances should be linked to local government pay rises and added: “We cannot go to council and ask for almost 30 per cent over three years when we have people in the borough that can’t pay their gas bills. Some people in the public sector will get much lower rises than that. It’s outrageous.”

Coun Kath Pinnock

Her comments, which were accepted by the corporate governance and audit committee during its debate on members’ allowances, will now go to the September meeting of full council for consideration and approval.

During the financial year 2021-2022 councillors were paid a basic allowance of £14,002.

Following an investigation by the members’ allowances independent review panel (MAIRP) it was recommended that the rate go up to £18,000 phased in over the next three years. That’s a total rise of £3,998 or 28.55 per cent.

The increase would include the new added cost to councillors of paying for their own broadband on residential contracts, as well as choosing IT devices and subscription to cartridge-replacement scheme for printers.

During July and November 2021 the MAIRP carried out “a full root and branch review” that involved a series of interviews with councillors and staff. Its report was published in January this year.

The panel found that the basic allowance should better reflect and compensate members for the level of work, scale of responsibilities, the role’s impact on their work–life balance, and on councillor health and well-being.

Assuming a 37-hour working week, which, it said, would be an underestimate in many cases, that produced an hourly rate of £7.88.

The panel also heard evidence that the current basic allowance acted as “a serious disincentive to diverse recruitment” and that people possessing the qualities and attributes that might make them potentially effective councillors were “discouraged” by the money on offer.

The panel said: “[We] believe it is crucial to emphasise that no one becomes a councillor to make a fortune, but that it is eminently reasonable that councillors should receive fair and equitable compensation for carrying out a demanding and important role in society.”

In addition the MAIRP said some special responsibility allowances for key figures, such as the council leader, deputy leader, cabinet members, and chairs of overview and scrutiny chairs, standards and corporate governance and audit, should also go up.

Recommended pay scales for Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs):

Leader of the Council: Shabir Pandor – £26,364.

Deputy Leader of the Council: Cathy Scott – £19,772.

Cabinet Members: Paul Davies, Eric Firth, Viv Kendrick, Mus Khan, Naheed Mather, Carole Pattison, Will Simpson, Graham Turner – £12,863 each.

Chair of Overview and Scrutiny: Liz Smaje – £12,863.

Committee chairs, including planning – £6,432 each.

Chairs of Standards and Appeals, and members of Adoption and Fostering Panels – £3,860 each.

Leader of an Opposition Group with 16+ members (Conservatives): David Hall – £11,577.

Group Business Manager: Mohan Sokhal (Labour), Richard Smith (Conservatives) – £7,719 each.

Deputy Leader (Conservatives): John Taylor – £5,147.

Leader of an Opposition Group with 3-15 members: John Lawson (Lib Dems), Andrew Cooper (Greens), Charles Greaves (Independent Group) – £7,719 each.

Group Business Manager: Alison Munro (Lib Dems), Karen Allison (Greens), Paul White (Independent Group) – £5,147 each.

Deputy Leader: Andrew Marchington (Lib Dems) – £2,572.

Councillors cannot receive more than one SRA.