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101 councillors set for pay rise

Birmingham | News | Published:

A £727 pay increase for each of Birmingham’s 101 councillors is “not in the public interest”, a critic has claimed.

An independent report calls for a 4.4 per cent increase in Birmingham City Councillors’ basic allowances following a four per cent increase last year.

But Labour backbencher Councillor Majid Mahmood has criticised the move at a time the council is slashing £22 million from next year’s budget and as the country is hit by the coronavirus pandemic – and promised to donate his pay increase.

The rise in allowances would mean each the city’s councillors would receive a £17,954 basic allowance for the year ahead.

This is above the average allowance for councillors in all of the West Midlands metropolitan councils, which is currently £11,702 according to a recent report to Solihull Council.

Senior councillors would also see rises to the extra payments they get – taking the allowances for council leader Ian Ward to more than £72,000.

The increases are recommended by the council’s Independent Remuneration Panel following an annual review, and would result in £73,427 more being spent on basic allowances alone.

In their report, the panel members say the allowances scheme should be linked to the ASHE – Annual Survey of Hours of Earnings – a measure that is based on the full time pay of a local council employees.

According to the panel, abiding by the ASHE would have meant a 10 per cent pay rise in 2018/19.

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But instead, the panel decided to suggest a rise of four per cent last year and further increases this year and over the following years.

The report was presented to the council’s Business Management Committee, which met on March 23.

The report states: “Whilst the basic allowance paid to councillors in Birmingham does not and should not represent a wage, the panel believes that it should keep pace with increases in local income levels.

“Whilst very mindful of the financial pressures the council is dealing with, we are recommending that the basic allowance and special responsibility allowance is increased in line with the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE, the measure/comparator adopted by the Panel in 2013).

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“Last year the panel committed to re-establish the link to the comparator, after several years of no increases, with the intention to bring the basic allowance back to parity with ASHE over the remaining years of this four year electoral term.

“The panel confirms its recommendation to incrementally increase the basic and special responsibility allowances to ‘catch up’ with the ASHE comparator.

“This results in a recommended 4.4 per cent increase for basic and special responsibility allowances for the 2020 municipal year.”

The Business Management Committee referred the recommendations to full council to be voted on.

Normally this would take place at the next full council meeting on April 7 but this has been cancelled due to the coronavirus situation.

Instead it will be put before the council at a later date to be decided.

The committee also approved a report from the council’s chief executive which recommended raising pay to all council employees in line with the Living Wage, to a rate of £9.30 per hour.

Labour backbencher Councillor Majid Mahmood was critical of the recommendations, and said: “At a time when the city and country is dealing with the most difficult period in a generation, it is not in the public interest for councillors to vote themselves a 4.4 per cent increase for their basic and special responsibility allowances.

“If approved the allowance, would have gone up more than eight per cent in two years whilst local services [are cut to the] bone.

“It would be difficult to justify the increase when our citizens are under lock down and lots are unable to work due to the coronavirus, and self employed have been thrown under a bus by the Government.

“Whilst I appreciate it is an Independent Remuneration Panel’s recommendations, and thank them for their work, it is within the gift of the councillors not to accept the increase.

“The money would be better spent on delivering services to residents who have seen a huge reduction in their services as a result of the near £800 million cuts from central government.

“I accepted the increase [last year], and donated to a death committee to offset the increase in burial fees.

“Again this year, if approved, I will donate to a death committee to support those who struggle to pay their fees.”

A spokesperson for council leader Ian Ward’s office said: “No decision was made on the annual Independent Remuneration Panel’s report.

“It was merely referred to the full council meeting, as and when that happens.”

Committee member Robert Alden, councillor for Erdington and Conservative group leader, said: “Councillors’ allowances are decided by a independent panel which consider the evidence and make recommendations to the council, which is what was considered at CBM this week.

“Also considered, with all parties agreeing, was the increasing of the Living Wage for council staff, which was unanimously approved”.

Committee member Gareth Moore, a Conservative councillor for Erdington, said: “As far as I’m aware, the council has always agreed with the panel’s recommendations.

“Councillors shouldn’t determine their own pay, it should be done independently and that’s what the process does.”

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