Councillors urged to vote for their own pay cut

    Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council
    Members face a 6 per cent decrease but a raise for Council Leader

    AN independent watchdog has ruled that borough councillors are overpaid and called for wages cut by nearly 6 per cent.

    Members currently receive a basic allowance of £5,283 a year as remuneration for the 15 hours of work they are expected to contribute each week.

    On top of that, cabinet members and committee chairs receive an additional payment for their extra responsibilities.

    But a report from the Joint Independent Remuneration Panel [JIRP] recommended that the basic allowance be reduced to £5,000 – a 5.6 per cent cut.

    More drastically, some committee chairs could their wage nearly halved, with the heads of the three area planning committees dropping from £10,566 to £4,901.

    Meanwhile, the Council Leader’s position was deemed to be underpaid. Currently, Nicolas Heslop receives £18,384 a year – three times the members’ allowance – on top of his basic £5,283.

    But the panel’s report declared ‘that both the expertise needed to undertake the role and the time required are so high that a multiplier of four is more appropriate’, meaning Cllr Heslop would now receive £25,000 a year.

    It also adds a £15,000 budget for a Deputy Leader. The council do not have a formal deputy leader but are now required to do so.

    Cabinet members would also see a £100 uptick to the extra £8,400 they receive on top of their basic allowance. Although, overall they will still receive less due to the cut in the basic allowance.

    In total, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council spent £285,282 on 54 councillor’s basic allowance in 2016. The changes would shave £30,000 off this total.

    The changes require approval by the councillors themselves – leaving Nicolas Heslop in the uncomfortable position of potentially voting for his own pay rise, while approving his colleague’s to be cut.

    April Clark of the Tonbridge & Malling Green Party said: “The desperately undemocratic Cabinet system concentrates power in the hands of just a few councillors.

    “This proposal reduces the allowance of ordinary councillors and dramatically increases the allowances paid to the cabinet members as a group – by 38 per cent in total by my calculation.

    “The concentration of power and reward is astonishing. It is clear they don’t expect much from ordinary councillors other than to turn up and vote the way they are told.”

    The last JIRP recommendation was in 2013, in which councillors actually voted against an increase in their allowances.

    In December, Tunbridge Wells councillors rejected JIRP’s recommendation to reduce their pay to £5,000.

    Those who voted in favour of maintaining the current allowance said it helped attract a more diverse talent pool, ensure the council is not dominated by a self-funding elite and accurately reflects the true working hours of members.

    • The decision of whether to accept to the pay cut will be held at a Full Council meeting on April 11.