Call to cut cost of councillors

By Dan Santy Friday 01 February 2013 Updated: 06/02 13:15

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A CALL to cut allowances paid to councillors has been made after it emerged the borough forked out substantially more than authorities in neighbouring areas.

Rugby Borough Council shelled out £372,545 to its 48 elected members in total in 2011/12, while Warwick District Council paid £291,632 to its 46 councillors and Stratford District Council gave £327,121 to its 53 members.

The borough - which now has 42 councillors - pays each a basic amount of £6,227 for a year's work, while all four of Warwickshire's other district councils paid less than £5,000, Stratford handing out the lowest at £4,500 per member.

Independent councillor for Dunsmore ward, Howard Roberts, said reducing basic allowances by £1,700 to match Stratford, and cutting special allowances paid to Rugby's leader and cabinet members by just over a quarter, could provide savings.

His proposals work out to around £90,000 less in annual allowance payments.

Coun Roberts said: "The public endlessly hear council officials talk about reducing back office costs without hitting frontline services – this proposal does exactly that.

"We can reduce our allowances to the level of our neighbouring councils - whose members are just as qualified - and save enough money to give Rugby residents a cut in their annual council tax bill.

"If we can use this saving to cut council tax I believe it would be appreciated by many in the borough. As wages remain static while retail prices increase, any reduction in household expenditure will be welcomed.

"Any argument that states the council will lose good councillors if we reduce allowances belittles the hard working and intelligent councillors of other towns in Warwickshire. They work just as hard as we do – but get a smaller allowance.

"This is because they recognise being a councillor shouldn’t be about the financial reward - it should be about the reward of public service."

But borough council leader, Craig Humphrey, defended the situation and said Rugby had saved far more money than its neighbours by removing the £104,000 a year position of chief executive in 2010.

"While it is true our allowances are slightly higher than some of our neighbouring authorities, it is also true those authorities support a chief executive’s office, whose costs will be considerably more than the savings Coun Roberts has proposed," he said.

"By changing the council’s management structure we chose to take a large reduction in management costs alongside a small increase in allowances."

Coun Humphrey added councillors could choose not to receive their allowances at any time if they did not want them.

Independent remuneration panels are tasked with looking at an authority's allowance payments, although it is ultimately up to the councillors themselves what level they are set at. The current levels were assessed and decided in 2010.

The borough council meets to set its budget on Tuesday February 26.

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