Allowances for senior councillors in Walsall will go up after a controversial increase was approved.
The leader of the council, deputy leader and members of the decision-making cabinet will all see their pay go up from April. The move was passed at last night’s meeting of Walsall Council. Up to 50 members of Walsall Pensioners Convention held a protest outside the Council House prior to the meeting urging members not to approve the rise.
The five Liberal Democrats, Independents Paul and Chris Bott and Democratic Labour Party member Pete Smith all voted against the move, while the Labour group did not vote.
The increase follows a review by independent experts who said the rise would bring the authority in line with neighbouring councils and eliminate existing “major discrepancies”.
Speaking at last night’s meeting, council leader Mike Bird stressed the change in allowances was not for the individuals but for the posts.
“I have to say that with the council we have at the moment, which has no overall control, nobody can accuse us of voting for a particular individual to have an increase in special responsibility allowance,” he said.
He added that councillors dedicate a lot of time to their work. “I know what this council agrees tonight will not be popular out there,” he said. “It is not easy but when you do take on the administration of the council, you do have to take responsibility, the responsibility of taking decisions that are hard, sometimes extremely hard and quite tasteless to some people.”
Under the changes, the leader of the council would see his annual allowance go from £22,356 to £26,850 and the deputy leader, Adrian Andrew, would see an increase from £8,302 to £17,534 – some 111 per cent.
Cabinet members would receive £13,425, up from £8,302. Money would come from an underspend in the allowances budget for the past year.