‘Disgusting - council blasted over ‘greedy’ £70k backdated allowance rise

Shaun and Karen Vincent, leader and chairman of Broadland District Council. Picture: Broadland Conse

Shaun and Karen Vincent, leader and chairman of Broadland District Council. Picture: Broadland Conservatives/Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant

Councillors have been slammed for 'disgusting greed' after voting to award themselves backdated allowance rises worth more than £70,000.

Broadland councillors spent two hours voting to award themselves more than £70,091 after a remuneration panel recommended they be awarded a basic allowance increase of almost a third - in line with a pay rise for council staff.

During the same meeting, the council also agreed to charge residents a 3.6pc council tax rise.

The panel spent six weeks assessing the remuneration of councillors on Broadland District Council (BDC), ahead of a more detailed review of payments in combination with an assessment of remuneration at South Norfolk Council later this year.

READ MORE: Tempers flare as councillors vote for tax hike - and pay rise for themselves

And the group, chaired by former Eastern Daily Press editor Peter Franzen, concluded that councillors were receiving a basic allowance and special responsibility allowances of "well below the Norfolk average".

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Speaking at a full council meeting on Thursday, February 20, Mr Franzen told councillors the panel recommended they award themselves a rise of 31.06pc in the basic allowance.

They currently receive a yearly sum of £3,712 - the lowest figure in the county - while the average basic allowance figure across Norfolk councils is £5,155.

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Mr Franzen said the findings were simply recommendations and added: "You could give me two fingers if you want but the optics don't look very good.

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"There could be an argument for giving you a 40pc rise and you still wouldn't be top but we tried to be reasonable."

However, he also said: "If you look at Breckland and West Norfolk who spend - in my personal view - more than they should, you get an average that is perhaps not the correct average."

The council voted through a series of rises, which included increasing the basic allowance to a yearly total of £4,865.

They also agreed to award council leader Shaun Vincent a leader's allowance of £12,908 and voted for a 157pc rise for the chairman of the council, going from £1,501 to £3,872.

Council chairman Karen Vincent abstained on the vote.

Rises for special responsibility were also awarded to the council's vice-chairman, portfolio holders and chairmen and vice-chairmen of the planning, audit, licensing and scrutiny committees, as well as to political group leaders.

It comes just days after Norfolk county councillors voted to award themselves a 2pc rise while simultaneously upping residents' council tax costs by almost 4pc.

READ MORE: Council takes no action in 'conflict of interest' complaint about leader

Broadland councillors who are set to benefit from both pay rises - due to also sitting on the county council - are Tony Adams, Stuart Clancy, John Fisher, Greg Peck, Fran Whymark, Karen Vincent, Ian Mackie and Shelagh Gurney, who are all Conservatives.

Speaking after the votes at Broadland Council, Philip Williams, from the Broadland Labour Party, said: "It's not that different from the county council with the minimum income cuts and SureStart centres closing.

"They said because of the poor public transport we need mileage allowances. Shouldn't they do something about that rather than just pay themselves more?

He added: "They're paying their staff a 1pc rise.

"It's just greedy. I'm disgusted."

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Liberal Democrat councillor Dave Thomas added: "I voted against the backdating and increase as this isn't the time to look at what councillors get paid.

"A 3.6pc council tax hike will take effect and an increase of over £70,000 in the allowance budget isn't a wise use of money.

"This could be used on a new junior park run, more funding for the First Steps scheme for combatting homelessness, or more action against flytipping.

"Ultimately I feel taxpayers money can be better used."

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Vincent said the allowance rise and council tax increase "weren't joined up".

He said: "The member allowance increase is something we're going to be criticised for.

"It has been pushed away time and time again and Broadland has had a very low allowance.

"The gap has got bigger and the panel felt steps had to be taken - hence the increase is very large.

"Councillors tonight have taken that brave step.

"It's important because the council needs to be inclusive with members from all walks of life."

He added: "It was going to be a big number. We are still significantly below the Norfolk average. The reality is it was necessary. No one comes into being a councillor for the money.

"It doesn't look good when you just look at the two headlines."

READ MORE: Tempers flare as councillors vote for tax hike - and pay rise for themselves

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