Councillors have been warned they look like their “snouts are in troughs” ahead of approving an increase in their own allowances despite the authority needing to make £14m of further cuts.
North Yorkshire County councillors passed a recommendation by an independent panel of leading business figures that elected members basic pay be raised by 2.6 per cent to £9,885.
A full meeting of the authority heard members express concerns they were in a no-win situation because if they rejected the finding of the panel they would in effect be “taking back control of our own allowances”.
Numerous councillors said they felt uncomfortable having a hand in the setting of their pay and each individual member had a responsibility to take as much or as little of the allowances offered as they saw fit.
They added the independent panel that had examined the amount of effort councillors put into their roles had been “truly independent”.
The authority’s leader Councillor Carl Les said it would be pointless to have a panel if its recommendations were ignored.
Councillor Richard Cooper said: “We should not be ignoring the independent panel, taking back that decision ourselves or binding the hands of future councillors who may not be able to afford to take these roles on because of their jobs or their income or because of their age.”
While the panel had suggested the increase was justified “to retain the balance between public duty and a realistic recompense for the time given up, commitment and responsibility to undertake the role”, councillors appeared to dismiss that argument for the rise.
Members also appeared to pay little heed to the panel’s assertion that councillors were paid more at 13 of the 16 comparable county councils.
Conservative councillor Keane Duncan urged councillors’ to reject the proposed allowance increases to reflect the tighter budget that the authority was constrained to.
He said he wanted the council to send a message to residents “that we are all in this together”.
Cllr Duncan said: “In most if not all cases the energy and efforts of members greatly outweigh any sort of financial award or figure that could possibly be awarded to us. This is not and should not be a job in the traditional sense.”
Independent councillor Stuart Parsons added when members were regularly dealing with people who have very little and others who had low wage rises, councillors “should be setting the right example”.
He said while the cost to the taxpayer was relatively small it was vital the authority sent out the right message.
Cllr Parsons told the meeting: “This looks yet again very much a snouts in trough.”