Call for ‘immoral’ rise in allowances for councillors to be ditched
PUBLISHED: 09:44 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:10 27 August 2020
Neil Perry/Norfolk County Council/Denise Bradley
It would be an “immoral kick in the teeth” for people struggling in the wake of coronavirus if councillors take up an increase in their allowances, it has been claimed.
Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at Norfolk County Council, has written to County Hall Conservative leader Andrew Proctor urging him to waive an already agreed 2.75pc increase in councillor allowances.
While county councillors do not receive salaries, they are entitled to claim certain allowances as recompense for their work serving communities.
The latest increase was agreed in February, when the council voted to link future rises to the pay increase for public sector workers, which is due to be paid in September, backdated to April.
The vote for the increase came, despite an independent panel having “strongly” urged the council to consider forgoing that scheduled indexing.
And Mr Morphew, who said members of his group had used previous “excess allowances” to support communities and charitable causes, said: “Now we are seeing the impact of COVID on council services and beyond in our communities, voluntary organisations, businesses and increasingly people’s jobs in the county.
“We are dependent on more government money that looks like coming nowhere near bridging the extended budget gap post COVID.
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“I don’t see how we can wring our hands about the lack of money, savings or cuts required in services to balance the books, support communities and voluntary organisations and jobs, while prioritising councillors’ allowances increases yet again.
“It feels like an immoral kick in the teeth to many already reeling from or fearful of what is to come.”
Mr Proctor said he would not be taking his increase - and others could follow suit.
He said: “The council agreed in February that members allowances will be aligned to any future staff pay increase. Individual members can, however, freely decide if they do not wish to take this increase.
“I have already decided not to and a number of others have made that decision too.”
The latest row over county council allowances follows a hugely controversial decision by the Conservative administration in 2017 to increase their allowances by almost 12pc - against a recommendation by an independent panel.
Mr Proctor, who was not his group’s leader at that time, was one of three Conservatives who voted against that increase.
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