Councillors in Eastleigh have voted to recommend an inflation busting 8% pay rise for themselves – that is twice the 4% proposed by an independent pay review panel – although the overall cost of members allowances will be reduced. In comparison, in the last pay round Eastleigh Borough Council- which boasts a rental income from its commercial property portfolio of £5 million pounds a year – awarded council workers a 2% pay rise.
Last night, Councillors on the borough’s Administration Committee considered an Independent report on Councillors allowances – which are the payments they receive for carrying out their duties. The basic allowance currently stands at £6,240 p.a but 19 members also receive SRA’s or ‘special responsibility allowances’ for chairing committees or for representing their political party group as Leader.
These supplementary payments range from £660 to £19,595 (for the council leader) and five councillors receive two SRA’s. Last year, the total cost of these extra payments came to £116,000.
The Independent report recommended a 4% increase on the basic allowance – subject to indexation to pay rises awarded to council staff, which in the last pay round was 2%. The report also suggested increases to SRAs as high as 48% – except in the case of the Leader’s allowance, which they recommended should be cut by 2.3%.
During the meeting, an alternative set of proposals that had not been included in the published agenda or reports pack, were circulated to committee members and presented by the Council Leader Cllr Keith House.
Cllr House ,said the the panel’s recommended increases to SRAs were ‘significant’ and ‘unjustified’ and the administration committee were instead now proposing an alternative set of recommendations to present to full council in which all members would receive an 8% increase to their allowances –while all SRAs would be frozen at their current levels. These increases would take effect from August 1 with no backdating.
This would raise the basic allowance from £6,240 to £6,739 which is above the local area average of £5,989 as calculated by the independent pay review panel.
Cllr House said that the reduction in the number of councillors from 44 to 39 members following the recent Boundary Commission review meant that the size of Councillor’s wards had increased by an average of 13% and that the local population was likely to grow by 25% by 2021. The 8% rise he said, would be a ‘modest adjustment’ that reflected the extra workload Councillors now faced.
Cllr House pointed out that despite the 8% increase, the reduction in the number of councillors means that the council would still save £11,700 on the overall total paid in allowances compared to 2017.
Cllr Judith Grajewski – who is leader of the Conservative opposition at Eastleigh – abstained from voting saying that she thought councillors were already “adequately remunerated” adding that while it was true that “Councillors work hard, members of staff worked equally hard” and “if 2% is good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me.”
Bishopstoke Independent Councillor Gin Tidridge voted against the recommendation saying she thought Councillors allowances should “mirror” council staff pay and she would be happy to accept 2%.
The remaining Liberal Democrat members backed the recommendations which will now go to a full council meeting.