Members vote for 20% pay increase
Isles of Scilly Councillors have voted for a 20% pay increase in their basic pay.
At March 22nd's Full Council meeting, they approved a recommendation to increase the basic allowance for all Members from £3,489 per year to £4,209 from April 1, 2018.
However, they decided that further discussion was required on Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) for specific roles.
Dr Declan Hall, an expert in local government, was commissioned to provide an independent review of Members' allowances. His 102-page report said that the current daily rate is outdated and should be adjusted to £108 per day. He suggested that Councillors spend on average 39 days a year, or six hours a week, on their duties. This adds up to £4,209 per year (£18 per hour), an increase of 20%.
Cllrs Robert Francis, Euan Rodger and Dan Marcus said they were concerned that the increase would would mean going over the Council's budget for the coming year, with Cllr Marcus expressing frustration that the budget was set in February without Dr Hall’s report being taken into account, even though it was in the Council’s possession.
Cllr Rodger said he thinks there are many Members who deserve renumeration at various levels “but we are asking officers to make cuts across the board to make savings and looking at going over budget here”.
Council Chairman Ted Moulson suggested keeping allowances the same this year and examining the way forward by reconvening the Democratic Processes Panel (DPP), a body that has an initial overview of the policies and processes currently used by the Authority and recommends amendments appropriately. The DPP has not met at all in the current Council year.
Cllr Marcus praised Declan Hall’s report, saying it explained his thinking clearly. “Allowances at the moment are based on 2006 daily rates, which are totally out of kilter, we’re 12 years ahead of that now. It is only sustainable for certain people to be a Councillor, we should be encouraging people who do have businesses and families to become Councillors.”
Cllr Jonathan Smith agreed, saying: “I find this all a strange process because we’re effectively voting through our own pay increases. Minds go towards MPs doing the same thing. However, I would absolutely stand by what Cllr Marcus has said. We are way behind where we should be in terms of Members’ allowances, we have to attract more people in, we need greater diversity and you have to frankly just pay a bit more for that. We’re all working for pretty low rates if we’re doing our jobs properly…
“I would support the increase in basic allowance. In regard to the other allowances, I think it needs a lot more looking at. I am actually very dismayed that there’s no SRA for Lead Members… It’s about putting time in - I think a lot of us Lead Members are putting a lot of time in - and getting nothing in return. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the signal, the symbolism of what that role means.”
Cllr Adrian Davis said he disagreed with chairs of committees being paid more than Lead Members, as suggested in Dr Hall’s report. Dr Hall had argued that since the Lead Member system is new and roles not fully defined, they should not be paid an SRA until more experience is gained (with the exception of the Lead Member for Children, which is a statutory role).
Cllr Davis said: “There’s more to life than money and part of the allowances show a recognition of the position. Just as the women who work at the BBC don’t expect to get more money, they want equality and they want recognition for a job equally done. Every area has had an increase apart from the adult’s area. This is where I struggle a bit as obviously I appear to be batting for myself. But this report actually increases the amount paid for [the chairs of] fish and licensing more than the adults and vulnerable members of this committee that I’m shouting for.
“I think people know in this room that I’ve done a lot over and beyond my role profile, with some possible success in the near future. So I think it should go back for further discussion. I would support making the decision we’ve got to make on the basic allowance by the end of this month but asking the DPP to reconsider this situation.”
Cllr Joel Williams said: “We’re in an impossible situation. How ethical is it to send out council tax for a 6% increase while we give ourselves a 20% increase? There’s never a good time but today isn’t the time to make some of these decisions when there’s so much uncertainty. I just urge that if we do go down the route of the DPP, those meetings are minuted and attached as appendices as I think transparency in this discussion more than any others is particularly important.”
Cllr Fran Grottick agreed that 20% seems a lot, “but if you look at the comparison with other unitary authorities right the way through the UK, our allowances are extremely low”.
She continued: “I am very pleased on the one hand that we now have 50% of our Members actually engage in employment, I think that's good and healthy for the authority. But it does mean that people who give up a day’s work to attend a Council meeting are actually disadvantaging themselves because they can’t [work]. They’re actually giving to the community beyond their time… I would support the payment of the basic allowance and refer to the DPP to look at the rest of the report in detail.”
However, Cllr Francis said he could not support the 20% increase in basic allowances. “As far as I’m concerned, we should look at Cllr Moulson’s suggestion [to keep allowances the same this year]. We need to agree to keep within our budget that was set, whether we like it or not, for now and then it needs to go through the DPP and presumably when we get agreement on those results we can then see whether we can find the money.”
He then worded his statement as a proposal, which was seconded by Cllr Davis. Cllr Francis, Davis and Rodger voted in favour, with Cllrs Marcus, Legg, Smith, Williams and Grottick against.
Cllr Smith counter-proposed agreeing the basic allowance increase, saying: “I think Dr Hall’s report makes it clear why he proposes that. Clearly the rates of renumeration are way below what other Councils do and they have been set low for years. Also the amount of days per year he reckons Councillors use, I personally work more than that. I think it sends the right message towards Members that you renumerate them for the work done."
He proposed that Councillors approve an increase in the basic allowance from £3,489 to £4,209 from April 1, 2018 and the other allowances be passed through the DPP, which would be convened as soon as possible. The current allowances for Chair, Vice-Chair and Lead Member for Children would remain the same at the current time. Cllr Grottick seconded his proposal.
Cllrs Marcus, Legg, Smith, Williams and Grottick voted in favour and Cllrs Davis, Francis and Rodger voted against. Cllr Smith's proposal was therefore carried.
Cllrs Marian Berkeley, Robert Dorrien-Smith, Andy Guy, Avril Mumford, Mike Nelhams, Steve Sims and Steve Watt did not attend the meeting.
March 22nd's Council meeting can be viewed on YouTube here.