Council to set up fund for politicians to pay unwanted pay rise into
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
A fund will be set up to receive wages that Blaenau Gwent Councillors wish to give up, after they were told they had no option but to take a salary increase.
In February, the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) decided that the annual basic salary for all county councillors in Wales will go up from £14,368 to £16,800.
This increase has now come into force following the local election earlier this month.
Back in March councillors discussed the pay rise and decided to postpone noting the report until after the election.
At that meeting councillors said they were uncomfortable taking the pay rises when the cost-of-living crisis is affecting so many residents.
The report was back in front of the councillors at their annual meeting on Thursday, May 26.
The council’s organisational development manager Richard Bridge explained that the hike in pay is due to the IRPW looking to reinstate councillors’ salary with the Annual Survey of Hourly Earnings (ASHE) which is 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, the link to ASHE was broken.
Mr Bridge said that The IRPW believe that the election was the right time is to “rectify that imbalance” and align councillors’ basic salary with the 2020 ASHE.
Council leader Cllr Steve Thomas said: “Clearly members were concerned about the rise, which has been caused because of the broken link to ASHE because of the austerity years.”
Cllr Thomas said that re-linking councillor’s salaries to ASHE put them in an “awkward position.”
But Cllr Thomas added members are entitled to forgo an amount of their salary if they wish to, and should contact the council’s finance team if they wanted to do so.
Cllr Thomas added that if councillors voted to refuse the increase there could be issue of “non-compliance” against the council from Audit Wales or the Welsh Government, which would: “put us in a bad place.”
Cllr Thomas said: “I’m aware that a lot of us have funded charities, local clubs or causes.
“We’re setting up a presiding member’s fund and that will be available to all members of the council.”
Cllr Thomas explained that councillors could allocate a portion of their salary to this fund each month – and then there would be a discussion at the end of the year on where the best place would be to “spend or put it.”
“We saw this as the best solution, councillors have a choice,” said Cllr Thomas.
Cllr Wayne Hodgins said: “It’s concerning that the Welsh Government saying that we must take this salary, it should be down to us.
And Cllr George Humphreys said he believed that “(An) honest day’s work deserved (an) honest day’s pay.”
Councillors agreed to note the report.
In their report the IRPW believe that council leaders should receive a salary “at or above” a back bench member of Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament and being in the cabinet/executive should be seen as a “full time job.”
The council leader will receive £53,550 a year rising from £44,921.
The deputy leader will receive £37,485 rising from £31,783.
Councillors on the cabinet/executive would receive £32,130 which is up from £27,741.
Other senior roles such as committee chairmen or women, leader of the opposition and other group leaders would stay at this year’s level, but with the post holder receiving the basic rise.
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