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'Pay rise' recommendation for York councillors
YORK’S councillors should get pay rises of almost £2,600 a year, according to a review into their allowances.
Annual basic allowances should rise from £7,192.50 to £9,777.28, if a recommendation by an independent remuneration panel – set up to look at how much City of York Council ’s 47 members receive in their roles – is supported.
It said the council leader’s current special responsibility allowance (SRA) which currently stands at £23,520 should rise to £29,331, with their deputy being paid £20,532 – a £3,627 increase. Cabinet members are recommended to receive a £2,899 annual hike, taking their allowance up to £17,599.
The authority must appoint a group to review payments to councillors every four years. The eight-strong panel said the leader of the main opposition group should be paid £13,199, rather than the present £10,500, while other group leaders’ SRAs should more than double to £4,400.
In 2007, a previous panel said York’s basic allowances should rise to £8,800, but the latest report said this was not considered “politically acceptable”. The recommendations will be discussed at a future meeting of the authority, which has to save £10.75 million this year.
The report said York councillors felt some roles demanded “at least the same level of input as a full-time job”, adding that York’s allowances were currently lower than those at similar-sized councils and other Yorkshire authorities, but admitted the recommended rises were “significant”.
It said councillors should be paid enough to make the choice between focusing on their “public role” and seeking “career advancement”, saying: “The city benefits from having a diverse and representative council and would suffer a disadvantage if only the financially independent or the retired could afford to stand for office”.
Council leader James Alexander said the Labour group would make a “democratic decision” before providing a formal response, while Conservative leader Coun Ian Gillies said his party would form a “considered opinion”.
TaxPayers’ Alliance political director Jonathan Isaby branded the figures “crazy” and said increases would be “outrageous in the extreme”, adding: “York councillors must reject these proposals if they are to have the moral authority to oversee necessary savings in the years ahead.
"The fact the city's councillors are not currently taking as much in allowances as counterparts elsewhere should be a matter of pride that they are delivering better value for money. If these proposals are not rejected, York residents will have every right to feel badly let down by their civic leaders."
David Dickson, a partner at chartered accountants Garbutt and Elliott and who was one of the members of the panel, said: "The panel met on a number of occasions to consider the reports prepared by officers and to discuss information which had been obtained at the panel's request.
"The panel invited and received written representations from members and met with a focus group of members which included a member of each political group represented on the council."
* The panel’s members also included University of York Pro Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Heaps, former Lord Mayor Janet Hopton, Aviva finance director John Lister, former National Railway Museum director Andrew Scott, York Minster's director of development Richard Shepherd, Peter Kay, who chairs York Economic Partnership, and Shepherd Building Group's deputy chairman Patrick Shepherd.