Cherwell District Council: Councillors vote to increase their allowances to cover inflation

Cherwell’s district councillors have passed an increase to their allowances in line with staff salary rises – despite Labour voting against.

By Andy Mitchell, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 4th March 2022, 9:18 am

An independent report recommended linking the increase to the cost of living, a rate that has yet to be determined but an example of 1.75 per cent was offered as an “indicative idea of cost and change”.

That rate would mean the basic allowance for councillors going up by £84 to £4,596 per year.

Special responsibility allowances – extras on top of the basic allowance for fulfilling certain roles like leader, deputy leader, leader of the opposition and chairing various committees – will go up by the same rate. Childcare, travel and meal allowances will remain unchanged.

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Cherwell’s district councillors have passed an increase to their allowances in line with staff salary rises – despite Labour voting against.

In its report, the panel reflected that the right balance needed to be struck between cost effectiveness and offering enough to make sure sections of society do not get put off standing for a place on the council.

It referred to “increasing complexity, additional responsibilities and burden of local government”, adding: “Allowances are not the only means of overcoming obstacles to wider democratic representation but the absence of a national baseline for member remuneration did not help efforts to attract a diverse range of people in the local community to consider becoming councillors.”

It also said that Cherwell’s allowances “are relatively low in comparison to other similar councils”, acknowledging there was “no cost of living increase” last year and that new levels “represented good value for money for the residents”.

Councillor Barry Wood (Con, Fringford & Heyfords) said: “I think the important thing to say about these recommendations, and I say it every year, is that there is no point in having an independent panel if you then proceed to disagree with what it says.

“The inflationary increases that are recommended are sound.”

All Labour councillors present voted against the proposals but none commented during the debate.

A fixed £300 per year increase to cover all IT expenses including home broadband and landline, calls from personal mobiles and computer, laptop or tablet and printing costs was also put forward but that decision was deferred – delayed until a future meeting.

The report suggested it would “ensure parity and fairness” with current provision inconsistent and “not offered as a matter of course”, particularly to more recently elected councillors.

Cllr Wood suggested the delay “pending more work from the officers and because of the divorce from the county and the impact on the IT department”.

“I don’t want to rush into that aspect until we have asked officers for further advice,” he added.