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GIVING a parachute payment to members who lose at next year’s local government election has been criticised by a councillor

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Democratic Services looked at a progress report on an action plan to make the authority more diverse.

The plan includes over 30 points that Blaenau Gwent and indeed all councils across Wales will look to implement by the elections in May 2022 and beyond.

Cllr Keith Pritchard took exception to of the plan.

Cllr Pritchard said: “The last bullet point says: ‘Support the Welsh Government’s and IRPW’s(Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales) commitment to explore resettlement grants or ‘parachute payments’ payments for members who lose their seats at election.”

The IRPW is an independent body that decides pay and pensions for councillors throughout Wales.

Cllr Pritchard said: “I’ve read the IRPW twice and I can’t find any comment on that in there.”

“Personally, I feel that a resettlement grant for a councillor is unnecessary and shouldn’t be in there, in a way it’s a payment for failure or that the people don’t like you.”

Cllr Pritchard wondered if the payment could be abused, in that councillor thinking of retiring could put their hats in the ring and “deliberately don’t bother to try” in order to qualify for a payment.

“I feel this is putting more of a burden on Council Taxpayers and it should be removed,” said Cllr Pritchard

Blaenau Gwent’s Democratic Service performance manager Gemma Wasley explained that that parachute payments are something that the IRPW and the Welsh Government are “looking into.”

Ms Wasley “It’s being explored, it’s not been set in motion yet, it is something which has been brought up across Wales.”

If a Senedd Member loses at an election they get a parachute payment. Ms Wasley explained that there was a feeling across the country that councillors should have the same treatment.

Ms Wasley said: “If there is something put in place nationally, as a council we would look to support it.”

Cllr John Hill felt that a parachute payment could be helpful.

He believed that it could address a problem if a young councillor lost their seat, they could pay mortgage bills with the payment.

“It’s what this is trying to cover, said Cllr Hill.

The action plan comes from a commitment by the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) to improve diversity at the 2022 local elections.

It has been found that barriers to attracting more diversity include:

Time-commitment and meeting times.
Political and organisational culture.
Childcare and other caring responsibilities.
Public criticism and online abuse.
Pay and impact on employment.
Lack of diverse role models amongst current elected members
The plan will go before councillors at a full council meeting on September 30.

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