We’re not well paid and deserve more money, say Norfolk councillors after being denied pay increase
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We're not well paid, can't afford to represent the public and deserve more money – that is a group of Norfolk councillors' response to an independent panel's decision to deny them a pay increase.
At the same time as plans to cut services such as bus subsidies for the most isolated communities, a four member panel looked at whether elected representatives should get more than the £9,401 per year they currently receive for sitting on Norfolk County Council.
It is more than £1,000 less than the £10,793 national average for county councillors - but the panel recommended the basic allowance should stay as it is.
A report prepared for Monday's full council meeting at County Hall revealed how councillors told the panel in a consultation prior to its decision that 'there needs to be a major increase in the basic allowance', claiming many could not afford to travel around their divisions.
They added the fact the allowance had not increased for many years 'does not give due recognition to the work that councillors do undertake a daily basis' and that the level of pay 'has a material effect on the ability of some low-paid people to take on the role of a councillor'.
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The county's Labour opposition group opposes any rise at this time, with leader Steve Morphew saying: 'There are an awful lot of people who deserve a pay rise at the moment and we can't afford to pay them.
'I don't see why we should be treated as special cases.'
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But the consultation reported other councillors as saying: 'The work of councillors has changed beyond all recognition,' and that: 'It is vital that they have remuneration in keeping up with the work that they are expected to do.'
The four-member panel agreed that 'citizens' expectations are rising with regard to councillors in line with their general expectations of the public and private sectors'.
It also said a 'fundamental review' of the system should take place next year.
Asked whether the basic allowance should be more despite what the independent panel had said, county council leader Cliff Jordan said: 'Personally, yes.
'I'm at the council every day and then I've got a night of work to do, reading reports and going to parish council meetings. I don't finish until 10.30pm.
'I'm never off the job. I get into the council by 8am and I'm there until 6pm.
'The councillor job has changed. Because of the media, people want instant answers and you have to do it otherwise they complain at you.
'I don't blame them. If you put yourself up for election, people expect you to be there for them.
'We're not well paid. The public mood is that they don't want to pay councillors any more money – but if councillors can't afford to represent them properly, the public lose. So it's a matter of judgment on that.
'If we want younger people to come into politics, we need to remunerate them properly.'
While councillors cannot give themselves a pay rise, they can vote in Monday's meeting to reject the panel's report.
Although he is leader of the ruling Conservative group, Mr Jordan said he would go along the collective decision of his parties in whether to accept the report or not.
'I really don't know whether they'll accept the panel's judgement,' he said before the weekend.
Mr Morphew added: 'I suggest showing restraint at a time when the council are going out looking for massive cuts - it would not be the right approach.'