Councillors' pay rise seen in 'negative way' says chairman

People in Powys see a mandatory salary increase for councillors in a “negative way” according to county council chairman, Councillor Gareth Ratcliffe.

Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe
Cllr Gareth Ratcliffe

In February, the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW), which decides councillors’ pay, said that the basic salary for all councillors in Wales will go up by £2,432 from £14,368 to £16,800.

The decision to increase councillors' pay came into force after the local elections and also amidst the cost-of-living crisis.

The report was in front of councillors at the council’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday – due to the authority needed to vote on how many councillors would receive senior salaries.

The senior positions include the council leader, cabinet members, committee chairmen as well as the leader of the opposition.

Newly installed council chairman, Councillor Gareth Ratcliffe said: “I personally don’t like us having to sit here and debate this.

“The public do view this in a negative way and are highly critical of this vote, but we’re noting the report and the recommendations are regarding the senior salaries.”

The council’s head of finance, Jane Thomas, said the annual basic salary of £16,800 must be paid to all councillors.

But Ms Thomas explained that councillors can “forego” part of their basic salary if they notify her in writing.

The report was noted, and the recommendations approved, with 51 votes for, two against and seven abstentions.

This year, the IRPW has pushed the payments up so that they “rectify the imbalance between the basic salary of councillors and the average salaries of their constituents.”

The reason the IRPW tries to set a fair salary is in the hope that councillors can be found from all backgrounds, including those who may also work full time.

The IRPW said it is realigning councillors’ salary with the Annual Survey of Hourly Earnings (ASHE), published by the Office of National Statistics. (ONS).

The basic salary reflected three fifths of the median gross earnings of full-time male employees’ resident in Wales as reported in the ASHE in 2009.

But with the coming of austerity measures and cuts over the last decade imposed by the Conservative government in Westminster, the link to ASHE was broken.

In its report the IRPW believes that council leaders should receive a salary “at or above” a back bench member of Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament and being in the cabinet should be seen as a “full time job”.

In Powys the council leader can now receive £56,700 – an increase from last year’s £49,974, the deputy leader can receive up to £39,690 – up from £35,320, cabinet members can receive up to £34,020 – up from £30,773, committee chairs can receive up to £25,593 – up from £23,161, the leader of the biggest opposition group can receive up to £25,593 – up from £18,108.

The council chairman’s allowance also goes up to £25,593, an increase from last year’s £23,161, while the vice-chairman’s salary increases to £20,540 from £18,108.

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