The public gets ‘damn good value’ for the level of allowances paid to Horsham district councillors, according to its leader.
Changes to the council’s allowance scheme, recommended by an Independent Remuneration Panel, were all approved at Full Council on Wednesday (April 25).
They will see the special responsibility allowance (SRA) for the leader of the council rise by £1,005 a year from £12,245 to £13,250 to bring it more in line with those paid by similar authorities.
However Ray Dawe, HDC’s current leader, said he would not be taking the extra amount and explained how since joining the council in 2007 he had given part of his allowance to charity.
The basic allowance for all councillors, which will remain unchanged, is £4,870 a year.
On the assumption the average councillor does 20 hours of work a week, Mr Dawe said this would equate to £4.68 an hour, much less than the living wage of £7.83, alongside having to pay for their telephone, internet and printing costs.
He added: “It seems to me that for £4.68 per hour the people out there get damn good value.”
The panel’s other interim recommendations were to reduce the SRA for the chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) by £230 a year, while the allowance for the vice-chair of the committee will be cut from £2,365 to £1,653 a year.
The allowance for the chairman of the Standards Committee will go down from £3,735 to £2,365 a year.
In total the changes will save the council £1,305 a year, but as Mr Dawe pointed out as he will not be taking the increase the figure would be £2,310.
Meanwhile his recent decision to combine two cabinet posts will save the council another £6,810 a year.
Rudgwick resident Paul Kornycky questioned proposals to reduce the SRA for both the chairman and vice-chairman of the OSC.
He argued the changes appeared to be driven solely by a survey of other authorities which indicates high comparator percentages at HDC versus other councils.
But he suggested these comparisons were ‘flawed’ as they did not take into account the varied organisations of different councils.
Mr Kornycky added: “Secondly, the importance of strong and effective overview and scrutiny was fully recognised in the recent major review of HDC’s governance.
“Degrading the relative value of these allowances on a superficial desktop analysis would not only be inconsistent but also send completely the wrong message.”
A proposal by Andrew Baldwin (Con, Holbrook East) to scrap the changes to the allowances for the chairman and vice-chairman of OSC was defeated by 24 votes to five with two abstentions.
Christine Costin (LDem, Trafalgar), who seconded the motion, said: “Even a small decrease will make the chairman and vice-chairman and the committee itself seem slightly less important and that has to be concerning.
“That’s not good for public perception.”
But Tricia Youtan (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham), cabinet member for community and wellbeing, said: “We are only talking about £230. It does not appear to be a drastic reduction.”
Meanwhile Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury), cabinet member for waste, recycling and cleansing, added: “If we start tinkering with the results of an independent review we undermine the very principle of having an independent review body.”
David Skipp (LDem, Horsham Park), leader of the Lib Dem group, said they should ‘take into consideration the comments that have been made about scrutiny and overview’.
But Mr Dawe said: “If we start tinkering with this report it degrades the value of the work that has gone into it.”