To consider the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Members’ Allowances with effect from 1 April 2019.
Mrs Sally Parnaby, Chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), was invited to present the Panel’s report to Council. The report recommended an increase up to a maximum of 2% on the Basic Allowance for 2019/20 to bring it up to £4,118.76 per annum.
The IRP had also recommended the following:-
• amendments to Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) as follows:-
i. the SRAs for the Chairs of the Audit, Human Resources, Lake Administration and Overview and Scrutiny Committees to remain unchanged;
ii. the SRA for the Chair of the Planning Committee to be £2,794.50; and
iii. the SRAs for the Chairs of the Standards and Licensing/Licensing Regulatory Committees to be £931.50;
• other than the Group Leaders’ Allowance, Members should receive no more than one SRA;
• Out of County Mileage Allowance to remain part of the single travel allowance scheme as per the previous year;
• travel expenses to be in accordance with the maximum rates set by HMRC without attracting a tax charge (currently 45p per mile), this to apply to the first 150 miles of a return journey regardless of the destination and 25p per mile thereafter;
• subsistence expenses to increase by RPI as at 1st April 2019;
• no change to Childcare/Dependant Carers’ Allowance. Payments to remain at a maximum allowance of £15 per hour. The Allowance to be paid from the time the recipient leaves home to time of return; and
• Co-optees’ Allowance be increased by up to a maximum of 2% to bring it up to £38.38 per meeting.
Mrs Parnaby thanked those Members and officers who had provided valuable input and, on behalf of the Panel, asked Council to accept the recommendations.
On behalf of the Council, the Chairman thanked Mrs Parnaby and the Independent Remuneration Panel for their work.
In moving the adoption of the recommendations, Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, expressed gratitude to the Panel for its work. He stressed that the position of a councillor could not be reserved for the independently wealthy and that, in order for the allowance to be meaningful, it needed to be increased to reflect inflation. He also pointed out that the position of Chairman of the Planning Committee was an onerous task.
Councillor Dyan Jones, Environment Portfolio Holder, seconded the motion.
Councillor Ben Berry proposed an amendment, “To agree the proposals of the Independent Remuneration Plan, except the increase of 2% to the basic allowance for 2019/20 and that the money saved be directed to fight poverty in South Lakeland.” The amendment was seconded by Councillor James Airey.
Councillor Archibald did not wish to accept the amendment, however, indicated that he would be content to consider a further amendment that the Leader’s allowance for this year be used to fight poverty in South Lakeland. He believed, however, that it was important for every Member of the Council to have the opportunity to serve as a councillor and that it would be setting a bad precedent not to increase the allowance in line with inflation. He reiterated though that he was willing, should Council so wish, to direct all of the Leader’s allowance to be used to fight the critical issue of poverty in South Lakeland.
Councillor Berry suggested that he would be content to include the Leader’s allowance within his amendment and clarified that it would now read, “To agree the proposals of the Independent Remuneration Plan, except the increase of 2% to the basic allowance for 2019/20, plus the Leader’s pay rise for 2019/20, and that the money saved be directed to fight poverty in South Lakeland.” Councillor James Airey indicated that he was content with the inclusion of the Leader’s allowance within the amendment.
Councillor Archibald, however, did not accept this amendment either, maintaining that it was appropriate for Members to receive an allowance commensurate with the work that they carried out. He stressed that the Independent Remuneration Panel existed to provide advice on allowances and that it was entirely appropriate for councillors to receive these allowances, some in need of the money in order to carry out their role. He remained, however, content to direct his Leader’s allowance to fight poverty in South Lakeland and suggested that, should Councillor Berry choose to also suggest that the Leader of the Opposition’s allowance be included, then he would be happy to support this as well.
The Solicitor to the Council clarified that the current amendment was for the proposals of the Independent Remuneration Panel to be agreed, except the increase of 2% to the basic allowance for 2019/20, plus the Leader’s allowance for 2019/20, and that the money saved be directed to fight poverty in South Lakeland. Having taken advice from the Finance Team, she pointed out that it would not be possible to ring-fence the money saved and that it would be put back into the Council budget in the usual manner.
Councillors Andrew Jarvis, Jonathan Brook, Vicky Hughes, Vivienne Rees and Matt Severn all spoke against the proposed amendment for a number of reasons. It was felt inappropriate for the money to be hypothecated from one source to another; there were Members who had little other income; it should be left to individual Members to decide on how to use their increase; and Members worked hard for their resident, some using their allowances for the good of their communities.
A vote was taken on the proposed amendment, which was lost.
Prior to a vote being taken on Councillor Archibald’s substantive motion, he sought further clarification from the Solicitor to the Council with regard to the possibility of an amendment for the Leader’s allowance to be directed to fight poverty. The Solicitor to the Council said that such an amendment could be moved, however, reiterated that it was not possible to ring fence funds. Councillor Archibald wished to make it clear that this had been his intent.
A vote was then taken on the substantive motion and it was
RESOLVED - That the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel and the Members’ Allowance Scheme for 2019/20, as attached at Appendix B of the Panel Report, be adopted with effect from 1 April 2019.