Councillors have been slammed for hiking their allowances by nearly 25% when their authority is to axe 350 jobs and make multi-million cuts to services.
Labour members of North Tyneside Council voted to increase their allowances to £9,759, from £7,896, which they say is in line with other authorities.
But the Conservative opposition has criticised the move describing it as “outrageous” and a chance for councillors to “line their own pockets.”
Councillor Judith Wallace, leader of the Conservative group, said:
“For the Labour group to vote to increase their own allowance, at the same time that it is laying off a further 350 local people, is outrageous.
“All my Conservative councillors voted against this. Local people will be furious that their Labour councillors think that lining their own pockets is more important than retaining jobs and local services.”
The move is set to cost the council an extra £116,000 a year, however it is the first increase members will have had since 2009, and the new figure has been reached by taking the mean average of allowances for Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland councillors.
Councillor Wallace said:
“If the Labour group thinks that this move is targeting resources where it is needed then my constituents will be absolutely furious at their arrogance. My Conservative councillors and I will fight this all the way.”
The rise was voted on by the full council – which is run by a Labour majority – last Thursday, against a backdrop of job cuts and a reduction of £46m to £50m to the budget over the next three years.
The council has previously announced that buildings could close and children’s creches will only be targeted at those most in need. Nursery provision is also up for review.
A spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said:
“This change is in accordance with the recommendations of the independent remuneration panel which carried out detailed research and found that the basic allowance in North Tyneside is significantly lower than other regional and national allowances.
“There has been no increase in the basic allowance to North Tyneside councillors since April 2009 and the independent panel say these changes are necessary to help bring North Tyneside allowances closer to those elsewhere.
“The recommendations are also considered appropriate given their responsibilities and the many hours councillors spend working on behalf of residents.
“The panel – made up of four independent people with a wealth of experience in business, finance and local government – has previously commented that the level of allowances is too low and could impact on the authority’s ability to recruit and retain people to serve as councillors.”
The current level of basic allowance in other authorities are:
- Durham £13,300
- Gateshead £10,120
- Newcastle £8,775
- Northumberland £12,625
- South Tyneside £7,226
- Sunderland £8,369
A members allowance is a payment made to councillors for attending meetings and other approved duties of the .
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 04 Dec 2014