OPPOSITION leaders have criticised the ruling Conservatives who voted through a one per cent allowance increase for councillors.
CWAC Labour leader, Cllr Justin Madders, said the Tories should not have increased the amount councillors receive without it being recommended by the independent panel which looks into the pay councillors are awarded.
But council leader, Cllr Mike Jones, said councillors’ allowances had remained frozen for two years alongside council workers and the one per cent increase was in line with the one per cent increase council workers received this year and warned that if the council didn’t increase the pay councillors receive gradually then the indpendant panel would recommend large rises in pay, similar to what has happened in Westminster.
Cllr Madders said: “People need to be recompensed for their time but it does seem to be unnecessary at a time when there are cuts to services.
“There is an independent body which is supposed to make recommendations for allowances.
“My understanding is when they agreed the scheme in 2011 they said it should rise with inflation but in 2011 we were not aware of the scale of reductions in services and the amount of cuts carried out.
“The independent panel should look into this rather than councillors giving themselves an increase.
“If the independent panel said it was fine then we would have had no problem but they had not, which is why we could not support the rise.”
Councillors’ allowances which encourage greater diversity among councillors by encouraging younger, working people to stand for election, currently cost Cheshire West and Chester Council about £1.2m a year with the increase set to increase that bill by around £12,000. Council’s can increase pay to their councillors annually up to the rate of inflation with any further rise being recommended by the independent body.
Cllr Jones said he was disappointed by Labour’s comments and said the council wanted to keep pay increases in line with staff.
He said: “The indpendant body says we can increase on an annual basis up to inflation.
“I do not want to go up to inflation because we staff have had a two year pay freeze.
“In 2010 the independent body said some of the allowances in the council executive should increase and some should decrease. We did not challenge that because we did not think it was party political.
“I am very disappointed that Labour are playing party politics because the opposition group leader had a rise in 2010 recommended by the indpendant body although he did not take it until this year.
“I think he is being some what insincere.
“My feeling is that you keep in line with staff.”
See full story in the Chester Leader