Members of a local authority faced with deciding how to cut a further £24.8m from key services have been urged to accept a rise in their basic allowance.
An independent panel’s review of the payments made to the 72 North Yorkshire County councillors found while members’ were supposed to involve some voluntary public service, a rise of 2.6 per cent to £10,142 is necessary to enable people from all walks of life to serve.
The panel also found councillors were under increased pressure with their workloads, due to continued reductions in council budgets and the rationing of resources, as well as the impact of the county’s rapidly rising ageing population.
The panel’s recommendation, which will be considered by councillors later this week, comes after the authority has achieved savings of £172.9m over ten years but still needs to find a further £24.8m by the end of 2021/22.
In recent years, allowances given to councillors at the authority have remained significantly below those of members of the majority of the country’s 15 comparable county councils, and some councillors say they have never taken the maximum allowance.
A report by the panel’s chairman, former Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors John Thompson stated: “Our recommendation reflects the prevailing and predicted rates of inflation as well as recent local government pay settlements, recognising that lower paid staff received more than the two per cent baseline increase.
“It is noted that those staff on the lowest spinal point received over five per cent increase in 2019/20.”
The panel said the proposed increase would only mitigate the impact of inflation, but the very significant increase needed to bring North Yorkshire into line with comparable councils would not be “appropriate for this year in the continuing very challenging financial climate”.
The report concluded: “It continues to be the strong belief of this panel that, while the previous reluctance of members to accept proposed increases in the basic allowance has been admirable in the light of the financial climate, members should be adequately and appropriately compensated for their contributions.
“In our opinion, our recommendation is also necessary to attract the required calibre of candidate from a more diverse range of backgrounds to stand and serve as a councillor.”