Councillors reject payrise that will put pressure on council finances
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
Councillors in Blaenau Gwent have objected to plans to give themselves a £2,400 pay rise next year.
Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Democratic Services committee looked at a report by Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) that has recommended the annual basic salary is increased from £14,368 to £16,800 following next year’s elections.
The report by the IRPW is a draft that has been out to consultation at Welsh local authorities.
The consultation finishes on November 26 and a final report is expected in the New Year.
The IRPW chairman John Bader has said that the increases are “fair.”
The council’s organisational development manager Richard Bridge explained that the IRPW: “believes that local elections in May 2022 provide an opportune time to rectify the imbalance between the basic salary of councillors and the average salaries of their constituents.”
Labour group leader Cllr Stephen Thomas said: “I support the work of the panel and I believe that members should not be setting their own remuneration.
“However, I would have to say that there’s no way we could support this.
“We have to take into account the position we are in regarding Covid-19 and the pandemic over the last two years.”
Cllr Thomas pointed to the UK Government’s “insulting and appalling “pay increase offer of 1.75 per cent for council staff and that the NHS workers who had “run towards the pandemic” had only received a three per cent pay offer from Westminster.
Cllr Thomas said “There’s no way I could put my hand up for this given that ordinary members of the workforce throughout the UK are being treated that way.
“I hope to see this sent back to the remuneration panel for their deliberations.”
Cllr Bob Summers said that the increase could “put pressure” on the council’s finances.
After next May’s election the number of Blaenau Gwent councillors will be reduced from 42 to 33.
Mr Bridge told the committee that even with these salary increases, a “saving” would be made for the council.
Cllr John Hill said: “This is the wrong time to do this, it’s just farcical I couldn’t support it.”
The changes put forward by the IRPW also see a large hike in senior salary payments for council leaders, deputy leaders and cabinet or executive members.
The IRPW believe that council leaders should receive a salary “at or above” a back bench member of the Senedd and being in the cabinet/executive should be seen as a “full time job.”
Whoever leads the council after the May election could receive £53, 550 rising from the current £44,921
The deputy leader could receive £37,485 rising from the current £31,783.
Councillor on the cabinet/executive would receive £32,130 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.
The committee voted against the salary increases and all councillors will discuss the report at a meeting on November 25, their decision and comments will feed into the IRPW’s consultation.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.