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LOCAL VIEW: Councillors voted for 23% allowance rise... but will they decide to take it or reject it?

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County councillors have voted in favour of a 23 per cent increase in their allowances, taking the amount they can claim to £10,100.

County councillors have voted in favour of a 23 per cent increase in their allowances, taking the amount they can claim to £10,100.

At a meeting of Lincolnshire County Council on Friday, members decided to pass recommendations from The Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) for a series of changes to their expenses.

Among the 50 councillors voting to increase the allowances were Market Rasen ward councillor Burt Keimach, Caistor ward councillor Tony Turner, Welton Rural councillor Sue Rawlins and Ancholme Cliff councillor Lewis Strange.

But will they be accepting the increased allowance?

Coun Burt Keimach said he would be taking the increased allowance and he felt it was the right thing to vote through as it would attract a new demographic of councillor to the authority.

He said he hoped it would encourage the likes of students, single mothers and younger working adults to stand for election.

He added: “I want to pave the way for encouraging working people or people who are not past retirement to become councillors.

“I cannot speak for anyone else, but as far as I’m concerned I’m not ashamed to say I will accept it and pave the way for change.

“With an authority with a billion pound budget it’s chump change. Nobody is making a fortune from being a councillor, it’s silly to get angry about this.”

Coun Sue Rawlins agreed that it may open the door for a wider range of people to stand for council, but said she would not be accepting the increased allowance despite voting for it.

She added: “Obviously it is a massively individual choice as to whether to take it or not.

“As regards attracting new members in the future, we have to try and appeal to people who work and are not all retired or in self employment.

“I will not be taking mine because it is quite a big increase, but the only way I can do it is because I’m self employed.

“You cannot expect someone to come in during the day and give up time at work without being compensated.

“It is quite a commitment. Would you work 20-30 hours a week for nothing? You could not do it. Councillors work very hard and need some remuneration.”

Coun Tony Turner marks 60 years as a councillor this October and said for the first 20 years he received no remuneration for his work.

But he was still torn as to whether to accept his increased allowances now.

He said: “I have not made up my mind. I am tempted because I have been retired some years and have to manage on the £120 a week old age pension.

“I think everyone comes in to the council for the right reasons, I’m not always so sure they continue that way, but I have always worked hard for my constituents.

“This year I have given money to the Scout, Brownies and Grasby LIVES.”

Coun Lewis Strange also said he had not made his mind up yet but added that “I honestly believe that the proposed increase is justified, as it has been advised independently.”

These included the proposal for council leader Coun Martin Hill’s special responsibility allowance to be increased from £20,448

to £32,000 – a rise of 56 per cent.

However, Coun Hill previously confirmed he will not be accepting this increase.

The basic allowance paid to all councillors now rises from £8,184 to £10,100.

Coun Keimach said that this was the first rise since 2008 and the authority still had a low allowance rate compared with similar sized councils.

David O’Connor, executive director for performance and governance at LCC, said: “Following the debate at full council, the recommendations of the independent panel were passed by 50 votes to 20.

“This is the first time allowances have been increased since 2008.

“Even though the proposals have been accepted, any member can choose to forego all or any of their allowance, if they so wish.”

He added: “All the allowances and expenses that are paid to our councillors are published on our website annually and are open to inspection by the public.”

The IRP is required to review all councillors’ allowances every four years.

The last recommended increases were not implemented, putting Lincolnshire’s allowances lower than comparable councils.

The panel’s report noted that even after the increase, the leader’s total allowance would be less than other counties in the East Midlands and significantly less than Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (£65,000) or a NHS Foundation Trust chairman (typically £50–60,000).

The meeting also saw the authority decide to freeze its council tax precept for 2014/15 - for a fourth consecutive year running.

LCC will now be forced to bridge a gap between funding available and council spending by the amount of £12 million. This will come from reserves.

 

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