Councillors set to approve increase in allowances, costing more than £100,000 a year extra

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Bournemouth Town Hall, HQ for BCP Council

ALLOWANCES paid to councillors are set to be increased following concerns that workloads have been higher than expected.

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An independent panel has recommended a raft of changes to payments to elected members of BCP Council which would increase costs by more than £100,000 a year, writes Josh Wright of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Its report will be considered next week but there are concerns that the promised reductions for cabinet members and the leader, to cover the cost of new lead member roles, have not been included.

The current allowances were set shortly before the formation of BCP Council in 2019 but it was requested this be reviewed within a year.

This was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic but a report by the independent remuneration panel has now been published ahead of it being considered at Tuesday’s meeting of the full council.

It recommends a raft of changes, including an increase from £12,500 to £13,500 of the annual basic allowance paid to each of the 76 councillors.

This was proposed after the then-council leader Cllr Vikki Slade said last year that workloads were higher than originally expected.

The report says the average time councillors spend on council matters had increased from 75 to 110 hours per month. One councillor suggested a £30,000-a-year allowance be introduced.

“The panel was of the view that the challenges and the workload of a councillor within BCP Council were far greater than other similar councils in the area, and that this justified an increase,” it says.

On top of this, it has also recommended a new £2,500-a-year allowance be paid to the vice-chair of the council’s licensing committee and £5,000 for each of the six new lead members.

The only reductions it has suggested are for the chairs of the children’s and adults scrutiny committees from £10,000 annually down to £7,500.

If approved, the total increase in costs would be £142,000 a year although the council has budgeted only for a £25,000 rise.

And opposition councillors have criticised the Conservative administration with the report not including promised reductions to the £30,000 and £20,000 allowances paid to the leader and cabinet members respectively to cover the cost of the new lead member positions.

Cllr Slade, the Liberal Democrat former leader of the council, said it showed the new leader, Conservative Cllr Drew Mellor, “could not be held to his word”.

She said: “It is disappointing to see not only the leader stepping back from his commitment but also new allowances for the vice-chair of licensing but not for the vice-chair of planning or other committees, seemingly paid for by reducing the allowance of hard working chairs of other scrutiny committees.

“The leader made a big deal about how he was funding this, and committed that this would not represent an additional cost to the council taxpayer but it seems that he cannot be held to his word on this.”

But the panel said it was not within its jurisdiction to propose the pledged reductions and Cllr Mellor said he would be putting forward the changes at Tuesday’s meeting.

“This is an independent review and is not made up of, nor the recommendations prepared by, BCP Council members,” he said. “It is absolutely my intention to make amendments to the recommendations of the panel.”

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