Nottingham City Council has approved an increase to members’ allowances with the leader saying “councillors have to heat their homes like everybody else”.
Labour-run Nottingham City Council considered plans for councillors to get an increase of seven per cent in their basic allowance as recommended by an independent panel.
Elected councillors are provided with taxpayer-funded allowances to reimburse them for their time, rather than salaries.
In many authorities basic allowances are not meant to provide a full-time salary equivalent, meaning many hold other jobs, especially those without special responsibilities – but Councillors can choose not to take the allowance or raises.
There was criticism from both Conservative and Independent councillors about the move.
Some members including the leader Cllr David Mellen (Lab), will now be in line for two per cent increases in their ‘special responsibility’ allowances on top of the basic rate, again backdated.
This means the basic allowance would increase by £913.68, from £13,052.62 to £13,966.30.
Cllr Mellen said the allowances were a “democratic and historical right”.
He added that “councillors have to heat their homes and pay their bills like anyone else”.
A report from the panel was brought to Full Council on Monday, January 9 and was passed overall with four votes against.
The recommendations for the increases are from an Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), which is made up of four independent members.
The funds will be backdated to April 1, 2022.
Conservative Councillor Andrew Rule said he would not accept the increase.
He said: “Whilst I appreciate that the IRP is an independent body, I do not believe at a time the council is proposing to increase fees and charges for council services, accepting an increase would be seen as the right thing to do by residents in my ward.
“This is my personal view. For those reasons I will be voting against the report this afternoon.”
Cllr Kevin Clarke (Ind) suggested allowances could be temporarily waived in order to save some of the job losses the authority is proposing.
Cllr Mellen replied: “The allowance recognises the time councillors devote to work on behalf of their constituents. It also allows people of all backgrounds to become councillors.
“It should not be the case that only those people with other financial means can become councillors.
“To waive the allowance would be the same as asking council staff to work for free. It would not be acceptable and is frankly a ridiculous suggestion.”
Councillor Adele Williams (Lab) said: “A lot of people can’t afford to not go to work and be a councillor instead.
“You need to be able to take leave of work to fund the ability to take fewer hours.
“People in this chamber work very hard to support their constituents and there is additional work related to your role as a councillor.
“We want this place to represent Nottingham for people who can’t afford to live without that income.”
Councillor Nick Raine (Lab) added: “We need to say to the public this isn’t something to be murky about, this is public money.
“We don’t get the same benefits that our staff do, like pensions.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, it should be out in the open.
“When people get work they should be paid decently and get a decent pay rise.”
• County councillors choose to take around 3% lower pay increase than staff employees