Plea to Secretary of State in Shropshire Council allowances row

A councillor has written to the Secretary of State for Local Government to request that meetings regarding allowances are held in public.

Oswestry town councillor Duncan Kerr has hit out at Shropshire Council for not reducing special allowances, at a time when the local authority is coming under increasing financial pressures.

At a meeting last week, councillors voted to freeze their pay, however Councillor Kerr said the council has ignored a recommendation to cull the payments for special allowances.

He has written to Secretary of State for Local Government Sajid Javid, calling for him to get involved in the matter.

He also sent a copy of a letter, which was sent from former minister for local government Brandon Lewis, to Tandridge and Surrey councils, in which he outlines his concern at their special allowance spending in a difficult financial time.

Also sent to Mr Javid was a document showing that more than £1 million was spent on special councillor allowances in 2014/15.

Councillor Kerr said: "I was a member of Shropshire Unitary Council from February 2016 to March 2017, and on being elected I was surprised to discover the number of councillors receiving special allowances, and asked the leader whether the independent remuneration panel had been made aware of the letter sent by your colleague the Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP to Surrey Council when he was minister for local government.

"The then leader stated that the panel had not been made aware of this letter and went on to state that councillors did not set their remuneration claiming it was determined by the panel.

"They recommended significant reductions in the number of councillors receiving Special allowances and the level of these payments.

"Despite the widely reported financial pressures on the council, which has led to local MPs lobbying yourself, the report contained no financial information from the section 151 officer of the savings to the councils if it was to be adopted.

"I was surprised and disappointed that the council voted to reject these carefully considered recommendations and that some Shropshire councillors continue to be entitled to draw levels of allowances in excess of those recommended by their own independent remuneration panel.

"The speed with which they have changed their views on who sets these allowances is also prejudicial to public confidence in local governance."

Councillor Kerr wants the Secretary of State to weigh in on the matter, and to also make panel meetings about special allowances open to the public.

He added: "In investigating this matter, it has also become apparent that Shropshire Unitary Council could not say when their Remuneration Panel had last considered the entire allowance scheme.

"It seems that for the last decade the panel has met, but it has only considered representations on part of the scheme and not the scheme as a whole.

"I don’t think this was the intention of parliament, and you may wish to consider clarifying the requirements in this regard and make the meeting of the panel open to the public and encouraging representations from them."

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