Breckland councillors to receive increase in allowances after approving the rise themselves

Breckland Council's offices in Dereham.

Breckland Council's offices in Dereham. - Credit: IAN BURT

Councillors in Breckland will receive an increase in their allowances after voting to approve the raise themselves.

Just two council members, Labour's Terry Jermy and Harry Clarke, voted against the pay increase after a lively debate at Breckland Council's offices in Dereham yesterday while four UKIP councillors, Denis Crawford, Jennifer Hollis, John Newton and Mark Taylor, abstained.

Mr Jermy's suggested amendment for an independent panel to investigate the possibility of councillors' allowances being raised in line with public sector workers, rather by a council vote, was lost and the Labour leader was accused of 'political grandstanding.'

An independent panel suggested councillors get an increase in allowance to 1.9pc, taking it to £5,300, for 2016/17.

A report to councillors said: 'The panel wish to congratulate the council for maintaining the lowest council tax in the country whilst providing good levels of public satisfaction and local service provision in these times of austerity.'

Mr Jermy, who confirmed after the meeting that he would not take the increase, said: 'Hard working councillors in Breckland are worth their weight in gold.

'But the special responsibilities allowances at Breckland are grossly disproportionate to other district councils.'

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Breckland Council leader Michael Wassell's allowances will increase to £21,200, up from £20,800.

North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick receives £12,164.62.

Conservative Bill Borrett said: 'We get this political grandstanding every year with Mr Jermy.

'He took his special allowances in full. If he was so outraged he didn't have to.

'What people who live in Breckland want is service and good value for money. People here pay the lowest council tax in the country.

'If Breckland Council was flittering away money on champagne for executives and members the figures would show that.'

The increases, the first for Breckland councillors since 2009, are expected to cost Breckland around £8,200 a year.

A similar increase was recommended last year, but turned down by members.

More than £3m was claimed in allowances and expenses by councillors in Norfolk and Waveney over the past year.

Unlike MPs, councillors do not get paid a salary, but are able to claim taxable allowances to compensate for time spent on council business.

Yearly basic allowances in Norfolk range from the £3,459.09 paid by Broadland District Council to the £9,067.59 at Norfolk County Council.

Those who hold positions such as council leader, cabinet member, opposition leader and committee members are eligible for special responsibility allowances, with the largest payment of £26,373 available to the County Hall leader.

What do you think of the increases? Do the councillors deserve a higher allowance? Email adam.lazzari@archant.co.uk