“Ugly and scandalous”: Surrey Tories award themselves big pay rises

Surrey’s Tory county councillors have been widely condemned – and lambasted in Private Eye magazine – for awarding themselves whopping pay rises, in a year when they have to make £72m cuts.

Take action: Sign a petition asking leading councillors to return the massive unacceptable pay rises.

At its 6 May meeting, the County Council considered the issue of councillors’ allowances.

A report by an Independent Review Panel was tabled, which recommended increasing the Leader’s and Deputy Leader’s allowances by a generous 33% and 56% respectively. Rather than follow this advice, Surrey Conservatives voted to award their leaders even more – 60% each – bringing their allowances to £55,000 and £43,000.

The panel also noted that 47 of the 81 councillors were entitled to “special responsibility allowances” (SRAs) and suggested that this was hard to justify.

However the Conservatives upped the rate and increased the number claiming SRAs to 54.

Green bid to cap allowances

Green Councillor Jonathan Essex put forward an amendment to cap councillors’ increases in line with the pay award for staff.

His amendment (which was seconded by Labour councillor Robert Evans), proposed that the increase in members’ basic allowances and SRAs  be capped at 2.7% and that Vice-Chairmen of Local Committees should not get a SRA.

Only nine other councillors supported Cllr Essex’s amendment, with 56 voting against it and 8 abstentions.

Big rise updated

Almost all of the Conservatives voted for the increase, so it was carried.

Just to rub it in, the increases were backdated to May 2013.

The total cost of the increase in allowances is £216,600 – just a fraction more than the council has withdrawn from community projects.

Voting was as follows:

  • 46 councillors voted FOR the increases (all Conservative)
  • 24 councillors voted AGAINST them (Green, Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP, Residents Associations & Independent, and two Conservatives)
  • 4 councillors ABSTAINED (1 LibDem and 3 Conservative)

After the meeting, the Independent Review Panel resigned in protest.

“Downright ugly and scandalous”

Jonathan Essex says, “The Conservatives increased councillors’ allowances by twice as much as the increase in staff pay, with a further increase in allowances of ten times that for the fourteen most senior Conservatives.

“This is downright ugly and absolutely scandalous in today’s climate. It shouldn’t be accepted and we should not stand for this.

“This came alongside a £200,000 cut in support to local community charities and an overall council budget with a £19 million black hole that represents a massive cut in the scale or quality of adult social care services.

“With the vast majority of Conservatives now paying themselves Special Allowances, and generally all voting together on issues, the ‘government’ is now as large as the backbenches on Surrey County Council.”

Meanwhile in Reigate and Banstead

When a similar discussion took place at Reigate & Banstead Council in December 2013, the councillors were more abstemious!

The Independent Review Panel had recommended an increase of 2.2% (in line with the Consumer Price Index) but councillors put forward proposals for an increase of 1.1% and for no increase at all.  There was a lengthy debate, which concluded with councillors divided equally between those supporting a 1.1% rise and those supporting no rise. The Mayor’s casting vote led to a 1.1% rise being agreed.

Read more:

Read the minutes of the Surrey County Council meeting and view webcast.

Read the minutes of the Reigate & Banstead Borough Council meeting (There’s no webcast alas – Reigate & Banstead Council meetings are not webcast, though the equipment to do so was installed some years ago. We have asked for meetings to be webcast and Democratic Services officers are looking into it.)

 

 

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