COUNCILLORS in Swansea are in line for a salary rise of nearly 17% next year, and several are uneasy about it.
They expressed mixed views about the draft pay proposals, which have been drawn up by an independent body.
Under the proposals, a councillor’s basic salary would be £16,800, based on a three-day working week, compared to £14,368 currently – a rise of 16.9%.
The council leader’s salary would rise by 14% from £55,027 to £63,000. The pay of cabinet members and opposition group leaders would also increase.
The draft pay rates for 2022-23 have been put together by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW), which sets pay levels for local authorities. Its aim is to avoid further erosion in relation to average earnings.
Members of the council’s democratic services committee considered the IRPW report after discussing a plan to boost diversity among councillors to more accurately reflect the city’s many different communities.
Cllr Nick Davies said councillors would be failing in their responsibility to promote diversity if they didn’t accept the IRPW’s pay proposals.
He said the last thing councillors wanted was for the role to only be for people who could afford to do it, “in other words a retirement hobby for middle-class people who are comfortable”.
He added: “While it may stick in the craw of some people to vote for it, I think it’s better than the alternative.”
Cllr Lesley Walton said she felt “incredibly awkward” about the proposed hike, given that some people in Swansea were “really struggling”.
She said: “On that ground, I just find it very difficult to accept it.”
The pay rates will take effect on May 9 after the local Government elections, assuming they are implemented.
It would mean the councillor pay bill in Swansea rising by £246,359. This includes the fact that there will be 75 councillors from May 9, not the current 72.
Cllr Mike Durke said the planned pay rates did not sit comfortably, but he added that the role had become extremely busy and “more and more professional”.
Councillors, he said, were effectively “on duty constantly” in the electronic age.
He also said pay levels had to attract prospective councillors to stand for office.
Cllr Lynda James said she was surprised the IRPW report didn’t include anything about a working from home allowance, given that home workers had additional heating and electricity costs. But she was advised that home-working council officers didn’t get anything extra either.
Cllr Linda Tyler-Lloyd said her rising workload was part of the reason why she was standing down next year.
She said she wouldn’t advise anyone to stand as a councillor unless they had thought very seriously about the amount of time they could dedicate to the role.
A report before the committee said a lay member of a health board in Wales would currently earn £15,936 per year, based on just four working days a month.
Swansea Council has until December 3 to respond to the IRPW’s consultation.
Meanwhile, committee members will request that councillors’ mileage and expense claims aren’t published individually, as they are now, but as a whole for the 72 elected members.
Councillors also discussed a report about safety and security.
The IRPW said councillors’ safety may become “significantly” affected, simply as a result of legitimately doing their job.
“This may require the funding of appropriate security measures to protect councillors from personal risk or significant threat,” it said.