We’ve sometimes been asked “How much do councillors get paid?” and “Who decides how much you get?”
Well at the moment , District Councillors get a basic annual allowance of ?3,800. Those councillors who chair committees get an extra 40 per cent, and there are various smaller allowances for vice-chairmen, and the leaders and deputy leaders of the political groups.
Councillors don’t dream up these figures themselves. There is a separate panel of 3 independent non-councillors who meet several times each year to decide what needs to be paid to us. They think about such issues as “What expenses do councillors have?” “How many hours do most councillors spend on council duties?” and “Does the amount need to be increased to encourage more people to stand for election?” The council then votes on whether to accept these recommendations – and next years allowances are up for discussion next Thursday January 18th.
The panel is recommending an increase in the basic allowance to ?4,135 per year. This would bring us closer to the average figure for Essex as a whole. They are also suggesting that committee chairmen should get an extra 50 percent (?2067) and that vice-chairmen should get an extra 10 percent (?413) . They also suggest that the leader of the majority group on the council (Terry Cutmore ) should get an extra 100 percent (?4,135) . In fact, because Terry chairs a committee as well he would get ?4,135+ ?2067 + 4135= ?10337. Considering the huge amount of hours he spends on council work that’s not an unreasonable figure.
All the “extras” shown above only go to Conservatives, because they don’t allow anyone else to be chairman or vice-chairman of committees. However, the panel also recommend that the leader of the Lib Dem Group (that’s Chris at the moment) should get an extra 50 percent as well.
Are these figures fair? Years ago, councillors received very little in allowances. Some people might argue that it should stay an entirely voluntary duty without payment. But being a councillor can be very time-consuming business, taking up most of your free time. Some of us may spend 80 hours a month on council work, which means that the allowance pays below the minimum wage.
If the allowances became too lucrative, then you would presumably get large numbers of people standing for election in order to cash in. But that hasn’t happened yet – in fact it’s a struggle to find candidates, whether for political parties or as independents.
Any comments on this issue would be welcome!