Decision whether to accept councillors £2,400 pay increase deferred until after May local elections

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COUNCILLORS have postponed deciding a report which confirms a £2,400 pay increase until after the local government election in May.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council on Wednesday, March 9, councillors were unhappy with the decisions published by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) in February which decides councillors’ salaries.

The IRPW have decided that the annual basic salary for all county councillors in Wales will go up from £14,368 to £16,800 following next year’s elections.

The draft  IRPW report was discussed by Blaenau Gwent councillors back in November.

At that time councillors had rejected the pay increase and as part of the consultation with IRPW had sent a letter to object to the rises.

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Cllr Wayne Hodgins said:

“Just to clarify, this isn’t mandatory, it’s down to individual members whether they take the rise or not.”

The council’s organisational development manager Richard Bridge explained that if any councillor “wished to forego” part of their salary they would need to put that in writing including how much, and then the salary would be reduced.

Labour Cllr Thomas said that his group were not willing to accept the rise.

Cllr Thomas said:

“People are under stress and severe financial constraints it’s the wrong time to do this and we don’t feel comfortable at all taking these rises.

He wanted the council to reject the pay increases and keep salaries at the current level.

The reason the IRPW try and set a fair salary for councillors is in the hope that councillors can be found from all backgrounds including younger candidates who may also work full time.

To be a councillor they may need to give up work or a portion of their salary.

Cllr Malcolm Cross said:

“If we’re trying to encourage younger people to come on board I wonder if this is creating the right or wrong impression.”

Deputy council leader Cllr Dai Davies asked if they could leave the report “on the table” and did they “have to” decide?

Head of legal and corporate service Andrea Jones explained that the report is the IRPW’s and was presented to the council to be noted, rather than approved or rejcted.

Ms Jones added that the salary increases would “come in regardless.”

Cllr Thomas said: “I think it looks awful, and that’s not politics but from the heart.”

He added that he would “feel far more comfortable” if the decision were made by the new council after May’s election.

He moved to defer noting the report until after the election and council leader Cllr Nigel Daniels said that he was “more than content” to second that proposal if it was “constitutionally possible.”

The deferral was agreed unanimously.

In their report the IRPW believe that council leaders should receive a salary “at or above” a back bench member of the Senedd and being in the cabinet/executive should be seen as a “full time job.”

Whoever leads the council after the May election could receive a £53,550, salary rising from the current £44,921

The deputy leader could receive £37,485 rising from the current £31,783.

Councillor on the cabinet/executive would receive £32,130 up from £27,741.

Other senior roles such as committee chairmen or women, leader of the opposition and other group leaders would stay at this year’s level, but with the post holder receiving the basic rise.

Elgan Hearn Local Democracy Reporter

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