Labour councillor in Yarmouth will give extra allowances to food bank

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- Credit: PA

A Labour councillor in Yarmouth vowed to give the extra money she got through allowance rises to food banks, after members voted to up their basic rate.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council elections 2015.Local ward votes being counted for the Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth Borough Council elections 2015.Local ward votes being counted for the Great Yarmouth borough.Kerry Robinson-Payne, Labour: Nelson.Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

It came after members heard the the recommendations of an independent panel who found councillors in Yarmouth are paid the lowest allowances in Norfolk and Suffolk.

And although allowances are meant to be reviewed at least every four years, they hadn't been looked at here since 2009.

In a report seen by councillors the panel, which was set up in January, said: 'Other councils have reviewed their allowances at least once and often twice during this period.

'Great Yarmouth Borough Council now has the lowest allowances in both Suffolk and Norfolk.'

But Labour's Kerry Robinson-Payne, who represents Nelson ward, opposed the rise.

She said: 'Whilst I accept we are some of the lowest paid in the country, despite the hard work, I can't support this.

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'I represent a ward with one of the highest levels of deprivation in the UK. I find it morally wrong to accept this rise.

'Should this rise be accepted I intend to use the extra allowance to support the food banks, I invite others to do the same.'

Michael Jeal, who also represents Nelson ward, agreed. He said: 'I believe the people in Yarmouth are suffering and I think it would be morally wrong to take a rise.'

Labour group leader Trevor Wainwright, who represents Magdalen ward, said: 'It's always a difficult thing to talk about because people say we are in it for our own interests but we are right at the bottom of the list.

'The basic allowance works out at £86.73 a week before tax, and if you take the average councillor who will work 20 hours a week that's £4.33 an hour.

'I don't think we are being greedy but the minimum wage is £7.20.

'Great Yarmouth councillors have to be valued.'

As part of the recommendations, the independent remunerations panel (IRP) said the allowance councillors get for broadband in their homes should be grouped with their basic allowance.

But council leader, Conservative Graham Plant, proposed an amendment that would see the broadband allowance of £15 per month kept separate.

Independent Adrian Myers said: 'I agree with Cllr Plant that the broadband allowance should be taken out but my concern is that there's a broadband allowance at all. Would you not have broadband if you were not a councillor?'

However, UKIP group leader Kay Grey - of Gorleston ward - said she did have councillors who would not be online if they were not councillors.

'They have no interest in the internet,' she said.

Cllr Plant, who represents Bradwell North, added: 'If it's put onto the councillors' [basic] allowance every councillor will get it whether they want it or not,'

The majority of councillors voted to accept the recommendations, with Cllr Plant's amendment.

The cost of raising allowances looks to be around £9,795 but it was thought to be difficult to estimate the cost, because of the recent change from a cabinet governance system to a committee system.

All councillors are entitled to a basic allowance, which the IRP is recommending should be set at £4,510 a year.

Councillors with extra responsibilities are then given more based on what they do.

The panel also said that because of the change in system, there should be another review in 2017.

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