The very emotive subject of Councillors allowances (or pay) was discussed at October’s meeting of Cornwall Council. I think the fact that Councillor’s having to vote for their own allowance gets people more annoyed than the actual amount. Though, depending on the amount, people can get equally annoyed, but I think you get my point. However, without a change to the Law, Councillors will still have to vote for their allowances. Which I believe is rather stupid.
Let’s make it clear, apart from a Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) a Councillor is not paid any more money. No attendance allowance, no other daily expenses (apart for mileage for journey’s to an official meeting – strict rules apply). The allowance is also taxed and subject to National Insurance. I have often heard you must get expenses too. Well I do not, apart from being able to claim for a meal at County Hall.
When a Council looks into the allowances, an Independent Review Panel (IRP) is set up and is made up of people not connected to the Council. It looks at the workload, time, duties etc of a Councillor and sets the rate according to its findings. It then makes its report to the Council who either accept the findings, or in most cases chooses not to accept anything due to the public backlash.
In the IRP report it recommended the rate of allowance should be £16,400. This is roughly a £4000 rise from the current (£12,250) allowance. Three years ago, the IRP recommended the allowance should be £14,600. This was turned down by the majority of the Council. I must also point out, the increase of any amount would start at the new Council post the elections in May 2013, not now.
So what is the cost to the elector for having a Councillor? Using the current allowance, taking the average number of electors in each Cornwall Council Division (3,344 people) I cost £3.60 (not including mileage) per elector per year, or 30 pence per month. So I would say I am good value, for the amount of work I currently do.
Now during the debate the various side of the argument said their piece. As always, it was interesting to hear why people should/should not vote for the allowance. Jude Robinson summed it up beautifully. She said many Councillors are saying “they don’t need the allowance” etc, but as she pointed out they all claim the allowance.
To spare you from reliving the debate, the £16,400 IRP recommendation turned down, but an amendment was put forward for £14,600 which was the amount recommended by the IRP three years ago. This vote was carried 42 votes for, 29 votes against and four abstentions.
A further question that needs to be asked is what do you want a Councillor to be? Attending meetings; fighting their areas corner over getting the right services in their area; helping people with problems and offering advice on 101 subjects? Or do you want someone who cannot give everything to the role because they have to find money to pay for bills and the cost of living?
I have heard it too many times people say why has so few Councillors attended a briefing on a certain subject? In a lot of cases is because they have to work, or have other responsibilities that take them away from being a Councillor. Furthermore, I firmly believe no Councillor should be paid no more than the average wage (blog on the subject) of the area/Cornwall.
So ask yourself; am I now worth £4.36, per year (36p per month), per elector? Is that a price worth paying for democracy?