WREXHAM councillors have voiced their opposition to proposals which could see their pay rise by more than £2,400 a year.
It follows the body responsible for setting politicians’ pay highlighting that their salaries have fallen below the average amount earned by people in Wales.
The Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) has recommended standard pay rates should be increased by 16.9 per cent in its draft annual report.
However, councillors said lifting the annual basic salary from £14,368 to £16,800 following next year’s local elections would be inappropriate when NHS staff have received much lower increases.
Cefn councillor Derek Wright said although there was a need to boost pay to encourage more people to stand for election, the rise proposed would be “immoral”.
Speaking at a meeting of Wrexham Council’s democratic services committee held yesterday (Thursday, November 4), he said: “I do believe an increase of 16 per cent for councillors is an insult to the people we represent.
“Public service employees have received little or no increase in income since 2012.
“All working people are facing increasing costs of living, whether it be rising fuel prices, increasing council taxes, the projected increase in food prices due to driver shortages, and that’s not even mentioning Brexit.
“Think of the NHS staff and the commitment they have given us during the pandemic, and they are expecting a reward for their hard work which will probably be a two or three per cent increase on their salaries.
“For us as representatives of people in our communities to recommend acceptance of a 16 per cent increase would not only be wrong, it would be immoral.”
According to a report presented to the committee, the new salary structure would cost the council an extra £189,000 for the next financial year.
Senior post holders and civic heads would also receive a hike in their wage uner the proposals, with the council leader set to earn £56,700 – a rise of more than £6,700.
Llay councillor Bryan Apsley said he could not understand the logic of the recommendations in light of the difficult economic climate.
He called for the increase to be phased in over several years instead.
He said: “The electorate’s disposable income is under attack from things like utility rises, National Insurance, and petrol etc.
“The public’s perception of the proposal will surely be based on their own personal circumstances and the magnitude of the proposed raise for councillors.
“I’d like to propose that our response recognises the weaknesses in the system but the catch-up must be phased in rather than the massive 16 per cent rise in one go.”
Cllr Wright said elected members have three options once pay rates are set by the IRPW.
The include accepting the increase, returning the money to the council or donating it to charity.
He said the Labour group had historically chosen to give it to charity.
Rhosnesni councillor Mike Davies warned that accepting the pay rise could lead to a public backlash.
He said: “I think it would look pretty bad for us as councillors to be looking to get 16 per cent when the chances are that police, teachers and nurses are highly unlikely to get anything more than two or three per cent a year for the next few years at least.
“I think it would cause a lot of resentment and as can be seen on social media, much disbelief by residents.
“The council and councillors are often accused by residents of being out of touch and such an increase would only serve to increase those thoughts.”
The committee’s feedback will now be submitted to the IRPW before it publishes its final report in February.