Norfolk councillors vote to keep controversial allowances increase
- Credit: Archant
Norfolk county councillors have voted to stick with a controversial move to increase their allowances by 10.5pc.
Before Christmas, Norfolk county councillors voted, by 39 votes to 26 with two abstentions, to increase their basic allowance from £9,401 to £10,500 a year.
But Labour and the Liberal Democrats triggered today's extraordinary meeting with a motion that the Conservative-led council should reverse the decision.
However, the council voted, by 36 votes to 28, to reject the motion and stick with the increase.
Cliff Jordan, Conservative leader of the council, said councillors needed to be remunerated properly and that there was never a right time to increase it.
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But Labour group leader Steve Morphew said it was the wrong decision and it would now be 'an albatross around the necks' of councillors.
And Lib Dem leader Dan Roper blasted the decision as 'self-serving' and a bad message to be sending when cuts are being consulted.
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An independent panel had recommended the basic allowance should stay at the current level, bar any percentage increase local authority staff get, The panel had accepted a need for a 'fundamental review', with allowances lower than in neighbouring counties, but recommended any changes should happen next year.
They highlighted how the council has been consulting over 'significant budgetary reductions'.
But Conservative leader Mr Jordan had gone against the panel's recommendation and proposed the basic allowance increase. He also recommended his special responsibility allowance as leader should go up to £31,700 from £27,495, although he subsequently said he would donate his increase to charity.
He also recommended the chairs of adult social care and children's services committee get an increase of £13,747 to £15,809. The independent panel had said their allowances should go up.
The increases will see £142,000 shared among county councillors, from an under spend in the allowances budget.
Conservative Tom FitzPatrick said the independent panel had got it wrong and had 'abdicated responsibility'.
The vote came just after consultation finished, ahead of next month's budget setting, with bus subsidies and funding for children's centres potentially being cut.
The council is looking to plug a £125m funding gap by 2021/22 and leader Mr Jordan has signalled he could increase the council's share of council tax by just under 6pc.
There was heightened security at County Hall, although there were just three people in the public gallery.