Independent board recommend increase in councillor allowances in line with staff pay

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An independent panel has recommended an increase in the allowances paid to Northumberland county councillors.

All councillors receive a basic allowance to perform their duties. In Northumberland, this currently stands at £16,476.

In addition, cabinet members and others with ‘significant additional responsibilities’ are paid an additional ‘special responsibility allowance’.

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The basic allowance is intended to cover expenses incurred by members such as stationery and postage as well as recognising the ‘work spent on ward matters’.

Northumberland County Council headquarters at County Hall, Morpeth. Photo: NCJ Media.Northumberland County Council headquarters at County Hall, Morpeth. Photo: NCJ Media.
Northumberland County Council headquarters at County Hall, Morpeth. Photo: NCJ Media.

The amount paid is agreed by an independent panel; in Northumberland’s case, this is made up leading figures from the public and private sector.

As part of the latest review into the amount paid out to councillors, the panel interviewed councillors and asked a robust series of questions.

A report presented to councillors said the panel had ‘considered the workload and levels of responsibility’ of councillors, while also taking into account outside factors including inflation, local government pay awards and the increase in the minimum wage.

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There is a long-standing decision at Northumberland that sees the level of allowances linked to the annual pay uplift for local government staff. The panel accepted this was a convenient method but questioned whether it was appropriate.

This was due to the fact that, because there was a large salary increase for local government staff in 2022/23 – and a further one predicted for this year – there has been a ‘significant increase’ in members’ allowances ‘without any changes in their workload’.

Despite this, the panel agreed it was appropriate to keep the existing link, but added that the policy should receive further consideration in the next review for 2024/25 onwards.

The pay award for 2023/24 for local government staff is yet to be agreed. The council has said that once this is decided, the basic allowance will be uplifted and backdated to the start of the financial year in April.

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Members of the council unanimously agreed to accept the recommendations.

Speaking at full council, deputy leader Coun Richard Wearmouth thanked the panel for their work.

He said: “I would like to say thank you to the panel. I think that they did a great job.

“The interview I sat in was really robust, there were lots of probing, sensible questions asked. We thank them for their time.”