Cornwall Councillors accept rise in allowances

By Richard Whitehouse - Local Democracy Reporter

31st Jan 2023 | Local News

Cornwall Council Chamber
Cornwall Council Chamber

Cornwall councillors will see their basic pay go up to £17,681.79 after they approved the recommendations of an independent panel. Councillors currently receive a basic allowance of £15,130.75 but will see that rise in May after today's vote.

The recommendations of the council's independent remuneration panel also include increases for special responsibility allowances (SRAs) which are paid to those councillors with additional roles including the Leader, Cabinet members and those who chair committees. 

Under the new allowances the Leader will receive an SRA of £32,711.31 and the deputy leader £24,533.48. These are paid in addition to the basic allowance which is given to all 87 elected councillors.

Cabinet members will get an SRA of £22,897.92 which is the same rate as the Chairman of the council. All the allowances include a 25% reduction which is applied in recognition that councillors provide a public service and that some of their work should be voluntary.

Mileage rates for councillors will also increase so that they are in line with those paid to council staff with it going up from 40p a mile to 45p a mile. The panel also recommended that councillors should be able to take paternity leave from their roles, similar to that allowed for council staff.

Kirsty Hickson, chair of the independent remuneration panel, told a meeting of full council today that their recommendations had been reached following extensive consultation with councillors including a survey and face to face meetings as well as a benchmarking exercise comparing Cornwall Council's allowances with those paid by other local authorities.

She explained that a majority of local authorities looked at were considering raising their allowances by 4.04% and so this was used as the rate for Cornwall Council. The panel has recommended that allowances should be raised by 4.04% for 2022/23 and backdated to April 2022 and that they should increase by 4.04% for 2023/24.

Kirsty said that the panel considered the time spent by councillors on their work as a major part of their calculations and said that on average Cornwall councillors said they were working 35 hours a week. This had increased from 2017 when it was 31.5 hours and 2021 when it was 32.7 hours.

She explained that this had been attributed to the reduction in councillor numbers from 123 to 87 in 2021 which had resulted in councillors having larger areas to cover and an increased workload. The panel had also factored in contributions towards working from home costs such as broadband charges in calculating the allowances for the coming year.

Councillor Colin Martin asked why the panel was not allowing councillors to claim mileage for travel around their local area and to attend parish council meetings. Councillors can only claim mileage for attending Cornwall Council meetings.

This issue was also highlighted by Armand Toms who said that in the last month he had clocked up 160 miles in driving around his local area and attending parish council meetings and said the cost was "not insignificant".

Ms Hickson said that it was not considered that attending such parish meetings was mandatory and was seen as being part of the general duties of a councillor.

Conservative councillor Peter Guest proposed that the council approve the recommendations of the panel in their entirety. He thanked the panel for their "considerable work" in reaching their recommendations.

The proposal was seconded by independent councillor Adam Paynter who highlighted that all those who were elected in 2021 had larger divisions and more work to do than previous councillors. He said that the reduction in councillors from 123 to 87 had already saved the council "in excess of £500,000 a year".

Cllr Paynter added: "We have to be mindful of the cost to the council and the ratepayer but mindful of the savings we have made in the reduction in members."

The proposal to accept the recommendations of the independent remuneration panel in full was approved by the council.

     

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