Councillor Allowances Kept At Current Levels
The Council needs to review the allowances it pays to elected members because there’s a perception that only wealthy islanders can stand for vacant seats.
That was the view expressed by Cllr Ted Moulson during a debate on remuneration at last week’s Full Council meeting.
Members voted to broadly peg payments at the current levels for at least another year.
But Ted felt this was a disincentive for some islanders to stand for a seat. He said people from lesser income households should have same opportunity “as those who are flush with money.”
Councillors received a report written by an independent panel made up of two islanders, former Council Chairman Julia Day and local businessman Tim Guthrie, a Cornwall County Councillor Lorna Yelland and an expert in member’s allowances, Dr Declan Hall.
They met in September to review the payments and make suggestions on the way forward, the first time this has been done since 2010.
The panel recommended maintaining the current basic allowance for all members at £3,420 and with no increase to the £10,264 paid to the Chairman or £5,130 for the Vice Chairman of Council.
Committee Chairmen will also continue to receive £4,013 a year.
The only allowance being increased is that for Committee Vice Chairmen. The panel said the current rate of £409 was “desultory” and recommended raising it to £1,003.
Any member can only claim two of these allowances each year, irrespective of how many committees they chair.
Cllr Gordon Bilsborough was pleased that the Committee Vice Chairmen were getting a rise. He said they play an important role, deputising when needed, and the level of pay was now “realistic.”
And Gordon pointed out that the basic allowance was one of the lowest in the country.
That view was echoed by Vice Chairman of Council Steve Sims, who felt that the basic allowance was insufficient and “puts people off” standing for Council.
Cllr Christine Savill pointed out that the recommendations could be reviewed in a year’s time, but felt it was right not to make big increases just yet, at a time of austerity and with budget uncertainty ahead.
Council Chairman Amanda Martin said she was “dissatisfied” with the report and “not as happy with the work of this panel.”
She complained that members were only given four days, including a weekend, to provide their comments. That meant only four councillors were actually able to give their views and Amanda said she hoped they could “revisit this topic” again in the future.
Cllr Richard McCarthy took issue with some of the assumptions made by the panel when making their recommendations.
He was critical of the notion that members only spend 60 days a year on council work.
“That’s pretty unrealistic and more like 160 days,” said Richard, adding, “It can take over your life.”
But he also agreed that now wasn’t the time to raise allowances, when budgets were tight and inflation low.
Members voted to accept the recommendations.