Councillor pay rises to top £260k?

NORTH Somerset councillors could get a massive increase in their pay if a 'confidential' report gets approved. The leader of the authority would get an extra £11,500 a year and

NORTH Somerset councillors could get a massive increase in their pay if a 'confidential' report gets approved.The leader of the authority would get an extra £11,500 a year and each of his executive members would receive an additional £6,881. The basic allowance received by all councillors would rise by £1,521.For the first time ever, all councillors would also be able to join the Local Government Pension Scheme, which has an attractive 17.7 per cent employer's contribution rate. The extra £261,749 needed to pay the councillors would come from a contingency fund planned into this year's budget.When the council's full budget was approved last month, hordes of residents and union members protested outside Weston Town Hall over cuts to services that were described as 'dangerous', 'impacting on vulnerable children, the elderly and disabled' and 'short-sighted'.In order to keep the council tax rise to 1.9 per cent, the Conservative administration decided to charge for day care services, increase meals on wheels costs, scrap transport to faith schools and cut funding to many voluntary organisations around the district.Now they will debate the increases to their own pay at a full council meeting on April 1.The changes have been recommended by an independent panel that has been meeting since November 2007.The four panel members are Weston College's chief executive Paul Phillips, local businessman Joe Conlon, retired IT director George Reah and local resident Kelli Wade.If the changes are approved they will cost about £813,500 in total and all the payments will incorporate an annual rise, as received by council officers. This year the rise is 2.5 per cent.The panel has also recommended backdating new allowances for the three leaders of the authority's non-ruling groups and the audit committee chairman to May 2007. This alone will cost £13,750. The report recommends that councillors should only take two special responsibility allowances on top of their basic payment and those who have extra positions should be monitored so the council gets full value.The panel states it has suggested the 'substantial changes' because at the moment the allowances are not comparable with other councils in the South West.The basic allowance is 14 per cent lower than the national average.The panel says it believes the changes will act as incentives for people to stand as councillors and 'help ensure high calibre candidates come forward as successors'.The panel commented: "It will never be easy for councillors to face up to the sensitivity of voting themselves payments particularly at a time of financial constraint."In December, members of neighbouring Sedgemoor District Council unanimously voted not to take the increase in their allowances that had been recommended because of 'the current financial climate the council found itself in, especially when jobs and services were under threat'.THE CALCULATIONS:* The basic allowance has been worked out by estimating all councillors do 21.5 hours a week general council work, a third of which is unpaid 'public service'.So, 14.41 hours per week x £10.43 per hour = £150.29 x 52 weeks of the year = £7,815.40.* All special responsibility allowances are worked out at £15.81 per hour.The leader is expected to work 30 hours per week and executive members 18.75, on top of the basic.* Almost half the councillors, 42.6 per cent, are entitled to a special responsibility allowance on top of the basic.WHO WOULD GET WHAT:Council leader£14,685 (March 07) - £24,664 (April 08)Deputy leader£11,538 (March 07) -£17,265 (April 08)Executive member £9,438 (March 07) - £14,798 (April 08)Scrutiny and policy panel chairman £6,294 (March 07) - £6,166 (April 08)Planning and regulatory committee chairman £6,294(March 07) - £6,166 (April 08)Standards committee chairman £6,294 (March 07) - £6,166 (April 08)Area committee chairman £4,194 (March 07) - £4,933 (April 08)Basic allowance £6,294 (March 07) - £7,815 (April 08)New allowances which would be backdated to May 2007:Independent group leader (as largest opposition party) £5,429Liberal Democrat group leader £2,468Labour group leader £1,974Audit committee chairman £3,699* Councillor Nigel Ashton, leader of North Somerset Council. Last year's allowance: £20,979. Recommended new allowance: £32,479. An increase of: £11,500.* Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, deputy leader of North Somerset Council. Last year's allowance: £17,832. Recommended new allowance: £25,080. An increase of: £7,248.EXECUTIVE MEMBERS:* Councillor Jeremy Blatchford.* Councillor Ian Peddlesden.* Councillor Carl Francis-Pester.* Councillor Tony Lake.* Councillor Felicity Baker.* Councillor Peter Bryant.Last year's allowance: £15,732. Recommended new allowance: £22,613. An increase of:£6,881.COUNCILLORS:Members of North Somerset Council could see their basic allowance increase from £6,294 to £7,815, a rise of £1,521.

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