To consider the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Members’ Allowances with effect from 1 April 2020.
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 (in line with the 2020/21 public sector pay award) up to a maximum of 2% on the Basic Allowance for 2020/21 to bring it up to £4,201.14 per annum.
The IRP had also recommended the following:-
· no amendments to current Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs);
· the introduction of an additional SRA of £250 per annum to Members of the Planning Committee in recognition of the additional workload and training involved, site visits and the impact/complexity of matters addressed and decided upon by the Committee;
· other than the Group Leaders’ 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 1st April 2020;
· 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 £39.15 per meeting.
In presenting the report, Mrs Parnaby thanked those Members and officers who had provided valuable input, apologising for those names which had been omitted from the report in error. She drew particular attention to two of the recommendations, firstly explaining the Panel’s practice when recommending an increase in the Basic Allowance to be mindful of the public sector pay award. She advised, however, that discussions had not yet concluded in this regard, nevertheless that the recommendation was for an increase, in line with the public sector 2020 pay award up to a maximum of 2%. Secondly, Mrs Parnaby referred to the recommendation for the introduction of a SRA of £250 per annum for Members of the Planning Committee not already in receipt of a SRA. She explained that this was due to significant evidence which had highlighted the complex nature of the work carried out, the commitment required, the number of meetings and their duration, site visits and additional specialist training. Mrs Parnaby next referred to the three-Member ward system which had come into effect from May 2018 and to the resulting impact on the role of councillors. She informed Council that the Panel would be reviewing travel expenses in next year’s work programme, however, explained that the issue of the three-Member ward system did not fall within the remit of the Panel. Mrs Parnaby closed, informing Members that one of the Panel’s actions for next year would be to look at streamlining the process, whilst not detracting from scrutiny. On behalf of the Panel, she asked Council to consider the recommendations.
In moving the adoption of the recommendations, Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader and Promoting South Lakeland Portfolio Holder, stressed the importance of remuneration for Members in order to ensure that the position was open to all. This was an important job which deserved recognition and recompense. He refuted Mr Kell’s accusations of gerrymandering and offered to meet with political group leaders to discuss the process which he believed to be above and beyond reproach. Councillor Archibald expressed thanks to the Chairman and members of the Independent Remuneration Panel for their thorough and diligent work. Councillor Archibald drew attention to the opportunity for Members, should they so wish, to waive their allowance which would be put into a reserve to support the Council’s anti-poverty activity.
Members, on the whole, expressed support for the recommendation. Whilst some interest was expressed with regard to Mr Kell’s comments regarding membership of the Independent Remuneration Panel, his suggestions to abolish or reduce allowances were not welcomed as it was felt that this would open up the role of a councillor only to those who could afford it. Although recognised that the issue of three-Member wards did not fall within the Panel’s remit, attention was drawn to the fact that this had changed the dynamic of how councillors operated, with areas having significantly increased in size and, as a result, workload. It was also suggested that the recommendation for the introduction of a SRA of £250 to Planning Committee Members not already in receipt of a SRA did not actually reflect the additional workload involved.
Councillor Mark Wilson having seconded the proposal, it was subsequently
RESOLVED - That the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel and the Members’ Allowance Scheme for 2020/21, as attached at Appendix B of the Panel Report, be adopted with effect from 1 April 2020.