Freeze all councillors' allowances in Northumberland, independent panel says

Councillors' basic allowances in Northumberland should be frozen, an independent panel is recommending

Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth
Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth

Councillors in Northumberland should be paid the same basic allowance, an independent body has advised.

An independent remuneration panel tasked by Northumberland County Council to report on whether allowances should be changed has concluded that the basic figure paid to all members should remain the same.

Councillors will make final decisions on allowances at a meeting tomorrow.

They were last night urged to reduce their payments by a county resident who pointed to the need for the authority to make savings of £42m this year, and Newcastle City Council’s previous decision to cut allowances by 5%.

County councillors currently receive a basic annual allowance of £12,624.

On top of that, executive members receive an additional £14,850 to reflect their special responsibilities.

Chairs of the area committees and the various scrutiny committees get an extra £12,150, and there are other special responsibility allowances ranging from £1,080 to £5,475.

In June, a month after elections which saw Labour became the authority’s biggest party, the council asked the panel to look at all allowances paid to members - then said to total £1.3m.

The panel has now reported, advising that the basic allowance be left as it is.

It has also accepted the “intention” behind the new governance structures created by Labour leaders and accepted allowances be paid for all posts.

The panel proposes no change to the £27,000 allowance paid to the council leader, or to the £18,090 paid to their deputy.

Policy board members – the replacement for the executive – are recommended to remain on their current figure.

The newly created post of business chairman is recommended to receive the same amount and opposition group leaders £12,150.

The panel also makes recommendations on the allowances to be paid to the chairmen of all the authority’s committees.

A council report says: “Given that members may only claim one special responsibility allowance there is sufficient scope within the budget to pay for the changes.”

Decisions will be made on the recommendations at a full council meeting tomorrow.

Last night, Kevin Little, a Haltwhistle resident who keeps a close eye on the authority’s business, called on the council to cut its payments given the need for it to make £42m of savings this year.

He urged members to follow the example of Newcastle City Council which cut allowances by 5% earlier this year while facing similar budget cuts.

Mr Little said: “The allowances should not stay the same, the allowances should be cut.

“Newcastle City Council have 83 members, their total bill is £1m. Northumberland has 68, and its bill is £1.5m.

“I am not saying they should not have an allowance but every single budget has had a cut and why should allowances be sacrosanct?

“I thought we were all in this together, they seem to immunise themselves.”

The Taxpayers Alliance also called on the council to cut its allowances earlier this year.

Robert Oxley, campaign manager at the organisation, said: “Reducing councillor allowances is definitely something councils should consider, and at the very least they should be frozen.

“We have looked at basic allowances which are paid, and found some wide-ranging disparities in councils of a similar nature.”

The panel recommends a mini-review be carried out within 12 months once the new governance structures have been fully assessed.


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