Norfolk county councillors should not award themselves another allowances hike, recommends independent panel
The majority of Norfolk county councillors should not get an allowance increase, an independent panel says, after a previous vote led to a 16pc hike.
In December 2017, members of Norfolk County Council voted, by 39 votes to 26, with two abstentions, to increase their basic allowances from £9,401 to £10,500 a year. Subsequent rises linked to local council pay awards mean it has gone up to £10,924.
The leader's special responsibility allowance also went up to £31,700 from £27,495. It was hugely controversial, as it went against the advice of an independent remuneration panel.
That panel had said, with the council looking to switch to a cabinet system and facing financial challenges, it would be unwise to increase the basic allowance further at that point.
The panel has now made recommendations for 2019/20, by which time the council is due to have switched from a committee to a cabinet system.
It is advising the council not to increase basic allowance for councillors and “strongly urged” councillors to consider forgoing a scheduled rise linked to local government pay in 2020/21.
When it comes to special responsibility allowances for cabinet members, the panel has recommended allowances for the leader and deputy leader be unchanged.
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Cabinet members would all get £16,167 and the chairs of new select committees £6,468. But the panel said it was difficult to reach conclusions about those committees before the new model is up and running, so it wants to look at it again after six months.
The panel says the recommendations will cut the current allowances cost by £15,000.
Andrew Proctor, Conservative leader of the council, said: “I am pleased that the report's recommendations are in line with our intention the move should not cost the taxpayer any more money and are cost-neutral, in terms of the overall budget for councillors' allowances.
“It's premature to comment on the detail, as I want all councillors to have an opportunity to consider the panel's recommendations, before we take decisions at our full council meeting on May 7.”
Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group, said: “We're disappointed the levels have not been pegged back, but otherwise the panel deserve respect for the job they have done.
“The question now is will Conservative councillors accept the report or like last time ignore the recommendations and hike the allowances when they come to council on May 7.”
Dan Roper, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “The proposals mean less in allowances for the Liberal Democrat group, but I'm happy about that as it reduces the overall bill to the taxpayer.
“I have said all along that a change to the cabinet system should not mean we have increases in the allowances bill and that there should be no increase in the basic allowances.”