The Head of Legal, Democratic and Property Services presented the recommendations from the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) regarding Members’ allowances in the 2022/23 financial year.
The IRP reviewed allowances paid to elected Members serving most of the district Councils in Worcestershire. The Panel comprised independent representatives of the local community. The Council was required to consider the IRP’s proposals, although was not obliged to accept the Panel’s recommendations.
In considering the recommendations, Members were asked to note that the IRP’s proposals reflected their assessment of what they felt Members should be paid in terms of both the basic allowance and any Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) paid to certain Members for undertaking specific roles. The first recommendation, in respect of the proposed basic allowance for Members, was the level which had been proposed for other District Councillors in Worcestershire. However, the percentage increase required to achieve that level of the basic allowance in Redditch would be higher than at some other Councils because Redditch Borough Council had opted not to increase Members’ basic allowance for a number of years. This was not reflected in the IRP’s report, which worked on the basis that Members would have agreed the Panel’s proposals in previous years. The second recommendation from the Panel, in respect of SRAs, if approved, would result in changes to the SRAs paid to Members as the proposed calculations differed from the Council’s current Scheme of Member Allowances. However, recommendations 3 – 6 in the report, concerning payment of travel claims, carers’ allowances and payments to Parish Councillors, would not result in any changes.
During consideration of this item, Members were advised that there would need to be an amendment to the budget to reflect historic changes made to Members’ allowances. This would be reported to Members in February 2022 in the Medium Term Financial Plan 2022/23 to 2024/25. However, this did not have implications for the IRP’s report.
Following the presentation of the report, Members discussed the proposals and in doing so commented on the decisions made by Members in previous years not to increase the basic allowance. Concerns were raised that this resulted in basic allowance payments to Redditch Members lagging behind elected Councillors serving at the other District Councils in Worcestershire. A decision to increase the basic allowance to the level suggested by the IRP would help to bring the basic allowance into line with that in place at other authorities. Concerns were also raised that it would not be appropriate to decline to increase basic allowances at a time of rising inflation.
However, Members commented that they did not feel, at this time, it would be appropriate to change the arrangements for SRAs in Redditch, as the current arrangements in place reflected circumstances for Members in the Borough.
Reference was made to the potential for a benchmarking exercise to be undertaken by the IRP in respect of basic allowances paid to Councillors in Worcestershire. Members commented that the last time such an exercise had been undertaken had been in 2016 and the pressures and workloads of Members had changed significantly since this date, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.
1) the Basic Allowance for 2022-23 is £4,732, representing a 6.648% increase;
2) travel allowances for 2022-23 continue to be paid in accordance with the HMRC mileage allowance;
3) subsistence allowances for 2022-23 remain unchanged;
4) the Dependent Carer’s Allowance remains unchanged
5) for Parish Councils in the Borough,if travel and subsistence is paid, the Panel recommends that it is paid in accordance with the rates paid byBorough Council and in accordance with the relevant Regulations.