County councillor’s allowances to increase by 5.7 per cent
Oxfordshire county councillors still receive less than other councillors in the south-east
by Noor Qurashi, Local Democracy Reporter
County councillors are set to get a pay rise after they passed a motion recommending an increase in their own allowances.
An added 5.7 per cent was the suggestion made by the Independent Remuneration Panel to Oxfordshire councillors. The changes will take effect from April 1.
Those present at the meeting, held in County Hall, cited increased responsibilities, the cost of living and “maintaining diverse members” as reasons for the rise.
Liberal Democrat councillor Bob Johnston, of the Kennington & Radley division, said he was very much in support of the recommendation from the independent panel.
Mr Johnston, who was first elected in May 1993, said: “The job of a county councillor has become, in my view, much more complex and onerous.
“It can sometimes take me two hours just to check my emails.”
The overwhelming reason given for the increase, however, appeared to be “keeping allowances in line with the cost of living”.
The councillor of 30 years added that an increase was vital so as to maintain diversity within the council and avoid a situation where the only people representing Oxfordshire were of an “ageing, pensioner, gerontocracy and those who have the advantage of a private income”.
The extra cost to the council as a result of the agreed pay rise will be £65,292, as highlighted in the meeting by finance chief Dan Levy.
Nonetheless, annual allowances for Oxfordshire county councillors will remain lower than those of other South East county councillors – at £13,571. Oxfordshire county councillors currently receive an allowance of £12,636. County councillors in Kent receive the highest basic allowance at £16,401.
The independent remuneration panel which made the recommendation consists of members appointed following public advertisement and upon receipt of applications.
Councillors on cabinet and in other positions of leadership receive special responsibility allowances in addition to basic allowances with council leader Liz Leffman being paid £3,159 last November.
There is also room for other allowances which can cover subsistence, travel, childcare, dependents and internet use.
All finances are reviewed by the independent remuneration panel whereupon councillors may accept or reject the body’s recommendations.
While the motion was carried, a councillor pointed out that it had been voted for by Lib Dems and Greens, with abstaining parties apparently doing so with a pretence of virtue as councillors normally “accepted the increase in any case”.
Mr Levy’s comments on additional expenses to the council resulting from the motion were not met with disapproval.
Though, a Conservative councillor did cry out: “No more colouring books!”- a reference to a question asked by councillor Liam Walker to Andrew Gant on the amount of money spent on colouring activity packs for children in Oxfordshire which was £9944.40.
Councillor Gant had responded that he thought it was a “fantastic thing to do” and he was sorry Councillor Walker had “chosen to oppose this”.
Published: by Banbury FM Newsteam