Decision Maker: Council
Decision status: For Determination
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: No
Report from the Independent Remuneration
For 2021/2022, 2022/2023, 2023/2024 and 2024/2025
Mrs Sally Parnaby, Chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) was connected to the meeting via audio, having been invited by the Chairman to present the Panel’s report to Council.
The IRP had recommended the following:-
· a four year term of the Members’ Allowances Scheme (the Scheme) subject to any request to review as outlined in the Scheme;
· for the period from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2025 that uplift for Basic Allowances be in line with the agreed public sector staff pay award for each year of the Scheme;
· a detailed review and report by the Independent Remuneration Panel will be presented to the Council meeting in December 2024 for implementation for the next 4 years effective from 1 April 2025;
· to reduce the number of Independent Remuneration Panel members from 5 to 4 effective from 1 April 2021 and that the Chairman of the Panel be given power to exercise the casting vote if ever required; the Independent Remuneration Panel Terms of Reference are amended accordingly;
· co-optees Allowance is uplifted in line with the agreed public sector staff pay award for each year of the Scheme;
· Planning Committee Substitute Members continue to receive £250 allowance;
· to agree the draft advert and job description for recruiting IRP members;
· the IRP Panel will continue to meet at least once each year to review the index levels used in calculating the Scheme in each year. Council Members, Officers and IRP Panel members will be able to request a review of the Scheme during the Term of the Scheme if there are reasonable grounds for doing so. Reasonable grounds include changes to Members’ roles, creation of additional Members’ Portfolio roles or external factors such as Local Government re-organisation;
· no amendments to current Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) (however, planning substitute to continue to receive £250.00);
· other than the Group Leader’s Allowance, Members should receive no more than one SRA;
· out of County Mileage Allowance to remain as 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 1 April 2021 and each year as applicable; and
· 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.
In presenting the report, Mrs Parnaby thanked those Members who had responded to the invitation for comments for their valuable input. She informed Members that the IRP had carried out a light touch review this year, mindful of the additional demands being placed on officers and the challenges of remote and virtual working. Mrs Parnaby drew particular attention to the proposal for a four year term of the Members’ Allowances Scheme which had been supported by those Members who had responded. In addition, she referred to the recommendation for the Panel to meet at least once in each year in order to review the index levels used in calculating the Scheme in each year and, in addition, for Council Members, officers and Panel members to be able to request a review of any aspect of the Scheme if there were reasonable grounds for so doing. Furthermore, Mrs Parnaby pointed out the recommendation for an uplift for basic allowances in line with the agreed public sector staff pay award for each year of the scheme during the four year period. Mrs Parnaby explained that this was in line with arrangements introduced in other local authorities and that it was felt that this constituted a more prudent and cost-effective way of reviewing the Members’ Allowances Scheme moving forward. Mrs Parnaby referred to the fact that two Members of the Panel were shortly to end their four year terms and that, therefore, the Panel had reviewed and modified the recruitment and selection arrangements, in particular to try to attract applicants from across the community and especially from younger people who met the criteria.
Mrs Parnaby closed, thanking those officers involved for their time and support and, on behalf of the IRP, she asked Council to consider the recommendations contained within the report
In moving the adoption of what he felt to be a very sensible set of proposals, Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, thanked the Panel members for their service on the Panel. He expressed particular thanks to Michael Duff who was coming to the end of an eight-year term and wished him well for the future. Councillor Archibald pointed out to Members that because of the public sector pay freeze this coming year, this meant that Member allowances would also be frozen, which corrected what had been said, he believed, by the public participant. Councillor Archibald thanked all who had participated for their involvement.
Councillor Jonathan Brook, Deputy Leader and Housing and Innovation Portfolio Holder seconded the motion.
Discussion took place during which thanks were expressed to the Panel and, in addition, to Mr Ian Kell for his address under Minute C/75 above, some feeling that there was some truth in his comments. In response to a query, the Legal, Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) undertook to provide a written response to the points raised by Mr Kell under C/75 above and to provide a copy of the response to Members.
Concerns were raised as regards the issue of three-Member wards, which, although it was pointed out that the Panel did not believe that this fell within its remit, had increased Members’ workloads, this being the reason that Members often cited for leaving the Council. It was felt disappointing that this had not, yet again, been addressed by the Panel. Also raised was the fact that the recommendations heavily factored in the voluntary aspect and that the existing allowance did not enable a lot of residents to take up the role as a councillor in South Lakeland. Attention was also drawn to younger people and women being prevented from taking part due to, for example, having to take unpaid time out of work or having dependent children to care for. Further concerns were raised around Covid-19’s impact on Members having to work from home and having to attend more and more virtual meetings in terms of heating and electricity. Attention was drawn to the potential adverse impact on Members’ careers and thereby suffering financial loss and, in addition, for the need for consideration to be given to pensions for councillors.
It was suggested that consideration should be given to Members’ attendance at meetings, recognition thereby being given to their commitment. It was also felt that special responsibility allowances did not bear relation to reality, for example, in relation to the many hours put in by Cabinet Members. Some Members firmly believed that a review should continue to be carried out by the Panel each year, reference being made to how busy councillors had been during the pandemic, time spent in front of computers and rooms within homes being occupied by work-related equipment.
Attention was drawn to the fact that the IRP was an independent body that took into account comments raised by councillors and of the need, therefore, for Members to ensure that they responded to requests for input during reviews. The fact that the Panel’s recommendations reflected the public service pay review was welcomed.
It having been proposed by Councillor Chris Hogg to move to the vote, Councillor Brook, as seconder, thanked Members for their comments, stressing the importance of councillors being appropriately remunerated for their work and also that the level of remuneration should not act as a bar to those without income. He pointed out that the Panel did look at those issues and also that the Panel compared the level of remuneration with that of other councils. He reiterated the fact that the Panel was independent and that Members had been provided the opportunity to make representation. He suggested that in future years more Members might participate in the process.
A vote was taken by roll call and it was
RESOLVED – That
(1) the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Members’ Allowances to be adopted with effect from 1 April 2021;
(2) approval be given to a four year term of the Members Allowances Scheme (the Scheme) subject to any request to review the Scheme as outlined in the Scheme;
(3) for the period from 1 April 2021 to 31March 2025, it be agreed that the uplift for Basic Allowances be in line with the agreed public sector staff pay award for each year of the Scheme;
(4) a detailed review and report by the Independent Remuneration Panel will be presented to the Council meeting in December 2024 for implementation for the next four years effective from 1 April 2025;
(5) the number of Independent Remuneration Panel members be reduced from five to four effective from 1 April 2021 and that the Chairman of the Panel be given power to exercise the casting vote if ever required and the Independent Remuneration Panel Terms of Reference amended accordingly;
(6) the Co-optees Allowance be uplifted in line with the agreed public sector staff pay award for each year of the Scheme;
(7) Planning Committee Substitute Members continue to receive £250 allowance; and
(8) the draft advert and job description for recruiting IRP members be approved.
Report author: Courage Aiguobasinmwin
Publication date: 11/02/2021
Date of decision: 15/12/2020
Decided at meeting: 15/12/2020 - Council