Councillor G Denaro, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources introduced the report and reminded Members that this had been due to be debated earlier in the year but had been held back until clarification was received on the National Pay Award. This had subsequently been agreed at 2.75% but was not finalised until after lockdown. Following the Leader’s conversations with some of the Group Leaders the proposed adjustments would be to the Basic Allowance only. He advised that there were still differences with the Panel over some areas and the intention was have a conversation with them prior to the issue of this year’s report.
Councillor Denaro highlighted the statistics on page 30 of the agenda pack which showed that this Council lay in the middle range cost against General Revenue Expenditure and costs per head were at the lower end whilst against average councillors this Council was at the top. It was noted that Wyre Forest did not use the panel but held its own negotiations. Full details as to how the IRP calculated the new Basic Allowance were shown on page 31 of the report.
It was confirmed that acceptance to the increase in Basic Allowance only with effect from 1st November 2020 was being recommended.
The recommendations were proposed by Councillor Denaro and seconded by Councillor K May.
In the following debate a number of areas were discussed in more detail, including:
· Clarification in respect of recommendation 2, as these appeared to refer to the proposals put forward by the IRP and therefore the Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) would not remain the same as had been inferred by the Portoflio Holder. The Portfolio Holder responded that the IRP had made a number of recommendations in respect of SRAs but the proposal was for these not to be put in place, but for the SRAs and the multipliers to remain as they were.
· The Portfolio Holder clarified that all SRAs were to remain at the present rates. This was an amendment to the recommendations which had been included within the IRP report. Although it was highlighted that it was not clear from what the Portfolio Holder had advised Council, where this could be located within the agenda pack.
· It was suggested that the Members should not be accepting any increase in allowances this year and that this would be a more positive headline for the residents, many of whom may be facing financial difficulties at the moment.
· It was suggested that the increase be accepted by Councillors and that they would then be in a position to choose what they did with it as for example they may wish to consider making a donation to some worthy cause.
The Chairman apologised and explained that whilst he was using his new IT equipment, he was struggling to read the instant messaging board and was therefore reliant on officers to support him to ensure that he was able to take the speakers in the correct order.
The Monitoring Officer clarified that they had a requirement to take account of the IRP report and recommendations when making their decision, what Members were voting on was, as the Portfolio Holder had indicated, the 2% increase as opposed to any other recommendations the IRP may have made, not-withstanding the fact that Council had taken into account their views. There were therefore two recommendations for Members to consider.
Councillor Denaro confirmed that the recommendation was to accept the 2% increase to the basic allowance and the Scheme of Allowances was to continue in its current format.
Having regard to the report issued by the Council’s Independent Remuneration Panel it was
a) Members basic allowance be increased by 2% from 1st November 2020;
b) The current Scheme of Allowances would continue unchanged for 2020/21; and
c) the content of the Panel’s report be noted.