Update on December 19: Wealden councillors have voted to increase their allowances by 2.5% for the financial year 2020-21.
The district council’s cabinet has approved paying 45 councillors £4,728 a year. That is equivalent to an increase of £117 each.
Some councillors, in addition, receive special responsibility allowances and those are to be increased by 2.5% too taking the payments to those shown in the table below.
The recommendations were made by the Independent Allowances and Remuneration Panel to the council.
Panel members were told that the Wealden Basic Allowance was generally lower than those paid by other district authorities in the area which had a similar population to councillor ratio.
There was a suggestion this could be because the council had agreed to a freeze on an increase in allowances for a number of years.
Three councillors gave their views on the current scheme to the panel.
Those views included:
- The basic allowance of £4,611 didn’t compensate the amount of time spent on council business, particularly for a person working full time who had to take time off.
- People were not attracted to be councillors for the allowance but for more “constructive and meaningful reasons” such as civic duty, a desire to make a difference to local people and to ensure the effective provision of services to the community.
- The basic allowance did not reimburse the costs of being a councillor, particularly daily telephone calls, the effort put into the role, as well as unclaimed mileage and administration costs and time.
- An attendance scheme should be introduced so councillors have to have a minimal attendance record to receive an allowance.
More views are included in the full report to cabinet which can be seen on the Wealden Council website.
The panel said it was important to remind members this was an allowance scheme, not a salary, and therefore not intended to compensate the number of hours worked, or effort put in by members.
The panel’s role was to look at wider factors such as the economic position and the impact that a real term’s decrease on allowances had on the ability to attract councillors from a wide range of backgrounds.
Allowances should ensure that no councillor is in a detrimental financial position through standing for election and carrying out their duties as an elected member.
Other allowances for councillors, which are recommended to remain as at present, include a child carers’ allowance of up to £8.25 an hour, while endorsing the practice of the authority to reimburse actual costs incurred above this level, where necessary, with the approval of the portfolio holder.
An elderly dependants/dependants with disabilities carers’ allowance remains at £12 an hour though actual costs incurred above this level can be reimbursed, where necessary, with the approval of the portfolio holder.
Travelling allowances are paid in line with HM Revenue and Customers approved mileage allowances payments.
A category for other costs within the allowance scheme is recommended to be included for public transport and taxis, with costs in this category reimbursed in full, subject to the leader’s approval.
There is also a list of approved duties for which expenses can be paid, which include councillors attending parish and town council meetings within their wards. This was supported.
Subsistence allowances, see below. are recommended to stay the same.
Allowances for overnight absences would remain the same too at £85, and £95 for London or specified conferences.