Members' Scheme of Allowances (Agenda item 18)
To introduce a scheme of allowances to take effect on 1st January 2011.
Before agreeing a scheme, the Council must have regard to the report of the Independent Remuneration Panel. A copy of their report is attached.
The Member Services Manager presented the report of the Independent Remuneration Panel. The Panel had been appointed to consider and recommend a scheme of allowances that complied with the requirements of the Local Government Act 1989, the Local Government Act 2000 and associated regulations.
The Panel had met on two occasions and had taken account of considerable evidence and correspondence. It was familiar with the culture of Breckland and had previously made it clear what was expected in terms of performance in recognition of the levels of allowance recommended. In reaching its conclusions, the Panel had taken note of the key developments during the past year.
The Leader had been interviewed on 17th November 2010 and the Panel had been grateful for his attendance and for the information that he had provided.
It was noted that the Panel had remained of the same view as far as pensions were concerned and was recommending that Members not be given access to the Local Government Pension Scheme.
Given these financial uncertainties and the intention of Breckland to create a joint management structure with South Holland Council, the Panel had recommended a one year scheme for the period 1st January to 31 December 2011.
The current basic allowance would remain the same as would the Special Responsibility Allowance with the exception of the Deputy Leader’s role, the Task & Finish Group Chairmen and the Licensing Committee Chairman. It had been agreed that an additional amount should be paid to the Deputy Leader, and rates for Task & Finish Group Chairmen should be increased from £58 to £115 per meeting chaired. It had also been agreed that the Licensing Chairman should also get paid per meeting chaired instead of the annual allowance. Members were informed that the Licensing Committee had only met on a limited number of occasions during the past two years whilst the Licensing Sub-Committee had still met regularly and the Chairmen of these meetings were being paid an additional allowance.
Allowances for co-opted Members and for child-care would remain the same and the travel and subsistence, as they were in-line with National Rates, would be unchanged.
Requests for allowances for Town and Parish Councils would be referred to the Panel on receipt and would be considered on an individual basis.
The Panel had been disappointed with the attendance levels from some Members at Committee meetings and therefore had requested that a letter be sent to the Department of Communities and Local Government to highlight this concern and the fact that the basic allowance could not be reduced in the event of poor attendance levels (if felt appropriate).
The recommendations had been set out at section 13 of the report and Members were asked to put their views forward and suggest any changes.
A Member queried the travel rate for training which, in her opinion, at 15.1p per mile, was disgraceful and felt that it needed further consideration as most of what Members did involved training.
The Chairman pointed out that these were national rates that had been set and could not be changed.
A Member complimented the Remuneration Panel but had concerns with regard to the proposed change to the Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) for the Chairman of the Licensing Committee. He was aware that there had been a reduction in work but reminded Members of the work that this particular role covered which included being in control of the Licensing Sub-Committee Hearings. For these reasons, he believed that this particular role had a greater commitment to the Council and should have a SRA to reflect this work and be paid the same as the Chairman of the General Purposes Committee. It was proposed and seconded that the SRA be retained at £5200 per annum.
Mr A Egerton-Smith, Chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel, was in attendance. He pointed out that when the Panel interviewed the Chairman of the Licensing Committee a number of years ago, it was quite clear that the workload and meeting schedule was quite considerable. It was since felt that the SRA could only be based on the number of meetings that had taken place over the last 24 months and reminded Members that over the past year, the Licensing Committee had only met on three occasions. However, he apologised on behalf of the Panel if it had failed to take the due diligence into this role and asked Members to highlight any further aspects that had been ignored that should be taken into account.
As the Chairman of the Licensing Committee, the said Chair highlighted the two aspects that the role covered (which included being the Chairman of the Licensing Committee and the Licensing Sub-Committee) and reported that, when taking both roles into consideration, 14 meetings had actually taken place over the stated period. He did point out, however, that he had not been able to Chair all the aforementioned meetings due to Ward issues. A Member agreed with the recommendations as proposed by the Panel and did not think it to be a good idea to increase allowances in these difficult financial times.
A vote was taken on the new proposal and the vote was won – one Member voted against the proposal.
The Leader informed the Council of the Deputy Leader’s workload and he was pleased that this had been recognised by an increase in the allowance. However, Members were asked to note that the Deputy Leader would not be taking the additional allowance at this present time.
A Member felt that in these financially difficult times, and whilst the Council was considering shared management and reducing the amount of Officers, the number of Councillors should also be reduced. In response, the Leader stated that if the number of Councillors were reduced, the democratic representation of the people the Council served would also be reduced. He pointed out that Members did have the option to cut back on the amount they claimed but did not have the option to cut back on the service to their communities.
RESOLVED that, subject to the Licensing Committee Chairman being paid the Special Responsibility Allowance of £5,200, the scheme of allowances for the year commencing 1 January to 31 December 2011 be adopted as recommended.