Leader of Reading Borough Council (RBC), Councillor Jason Brock proposed a motion to the full council meeting on 25 June to increase councillors’ special responsibility allowances (SRAs). In the motion, the 183% increase for the leader of the council and lead councillors which had been suggested by the independent review panel was reduced to 164% and 149% respectively.

The increase for the deputy leader of the council was also reduced from 110% to 97%. All other SRA changes, except for awarding a higher allowance to the vice-chair of the planning applications committee and licensing applications committee, were as originally recommended.

As a result of these changes, the additional cost in a full financial year would be £90000 rather than the expected £100000 and the meeting proposed that the new scheme would only be implemented half way through this year.

Changes recommended by the remuneration panel, and as agreed

 

RoleCurrent
allowance
Proposed
allowance
Approved
allowance
£%£%
Councillor£8220£82200£82200
Leader of the council£7004£19846183£18500164
Deputy leader of the council£5722£12000110£1130097
Lead councillor
(tier 1 2018/19 & 2019/20)
£3816£10799183£9500149
Committee chair
(planning and licensing)
(tier 2 2018/19 & 2019/20)
£2147£6076183£6076183
Committee chair
(all other committees except appeals committee)
(tier 2 2018/19 & tier 3 2019/20)
£2147£303942£303942
Committee vice-chair
(planning and licensing)
(tier 3 2018/19 & tier 3 2019/20 proposed
amended to tier 4 2019/20)
£1074£3039183£10740
Committee vice-chair
(all other committees)
(tier 3 2018/19 and tier 4 2019/20 agreed)
£1074n/an/a£10740
Leader of the main opposition party
(tier 1 2018/19 & tier 2 2019/20)
£3816£607659£607659
Leader of other opposition parties
(tier 2 2018/19 & tier 3 2019/20)
£2147£303942£303942
Other activities requiring commitment
equivalent to those which attract an SRA
(tier 3 2018/19 & tier 4 2019/20)
£1074£10740£10740

Changes recommended by the independent remuneration panel but which were not proposed in the motion put to the council meeting were:

  • to offer councillors parking permits for any parking zones in the ward for which they had been elected be deferred to enable consideration of the proposal with reference to RBC’s sustainable travel policies,
  • to include the vice-chairs of licensing committee and planning applications committee in tier 3 of the councillors’ allowances scheme be not accepted, and instead these vice-chairs be awarded a SRA at tier 4, which would be consistent with the other vice-chairs of committees,
  • to appoint a second vice-chair of the licensing applications committee in view of the exceptional frequency and length of meetings would not be accepted.

The package of changes also included an increase in the rate of dependant carers’ allowance to £9 an hour. This is paid for up to 15 hours a week of care for childcare or an elderly or disabled relative (including a disabled child). The person providing the care must not be a close relative.

In proposing the motion, Councillor Jason Brock thanked the independent remuneration panel for their work. He said that their proposals were based on the principle that “… being a councillor is not a hobby, it is serious work to represent residents across our town” [at 1:08:00].

He went on to say that Reading had the lowest SRAs not only in Berkshire but of all unitary authorities in the country.

He continued, making the case for the need to increase remuneration for councillors with special responsibilities:

I have known many colleagues that have had to make sacrifices at work turning down opportunities, turning down promotions, taking unpaid leave in order to meet the requirements of their role…

If we do not ensure that councillors have adequate financial support, especially when a loss of income is involved, then we will narrow our pool of talent and will close off participation to all but the privileged few and that would be a bad thing for democracy, a bad thing for Reading.

We are a diverse town with a younger than average population and areas of significant deprivation. If we want to ensure that our councillors are reflective of our community then we have to ensure that our council cannot be the preserve of only the retired and the well-off.

[at 1:10:30]

Councillor Jo Lovelock said she and Councillor Page had asked the remuneration panel to do a more thorough review and that new members [three of four] on the panel were looking at it afresh [at 1:20:14].

Councillor Ashley Pearce of Church ward, and lead councillor for education, listed all the activities that a councillor was involved in and the personal sacrifices that he had made to carry out his duties [at 1:29:35].

Katesgrove councillor Sophia James, lead councillor for neighbourhoods and communities, said that she “… had been reading some of the comments on-line and understood why some members of the public might be concerned at some of the headlines” [at 1:32:12].

She went on to say that “… the recommendation was about facilitating new members and diversifying the voices that sit in this room.”

The motion was opposed by the Conservative and Green Party members and supported by the Liberal Democrats.


Links
  1. RBC council meeting – papers and webcast
  2. Councillors’ allowances scheme 2019/20 report & remuneration panel report
  3. RBC councillors and their allowances
  4. RBC Constitution – Part 6 Member’s allowances scheme
  5. Leader and lead councillors’ special responsibility allowances set to increase by 183%
  6. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”