The Lib Dems will propose delaying the implementation of changes to basic Councillor allowances by a year, in recognition of the impact of COVID-19 locally.
B&NES Councillors are being asked to approve an independent panel’s recommendations to gradually increase basic Councillor allowances over the next five years. This would bring B&NES closer into line with other comparable authorities, whilst freezing allowances for Chairs and Cabinet members.
Councillor Manda Rigby (Bathwick) commented:
“The Lib Dems are clear that now is not the right time to increase Councillors’ basic allowances, given the severe impact of coronavirus on the B&NES community.
“We recognise that many local residents and businesses are struggling following the multiple lockdowns. Helping the local economic recovery is one of our top priorities as a Council.
“That’s why the Lib Dems will propose delaying implementing the recommendation to increase basic allowances for a year. The report already proposed a freeze for Chairs and Cabinet members’ allowances.
“We do accept the need for the review and the rationale behind the panel’s recommendations. This work had been pending for some years and was initiated before the pandemic hit.
“In the long term, we need to ensure allowances are set at a fair level. This is important if we want to attract a diverse group of local people to stand as Councillors in B&NES.
“It’s a well-established principle that diversity leads to better decision-making, as more voices are heard at the table. Therefore, a more diverse Council will give the best service to residents.
“If we want to attract Councillors who are from different backgrounds, such as younger people, disabled people or those from different economic backgrounds, then we need to pay the going rate.
“Whilst technically a voluntary role, Councillors work hard for the community. They dedicate an average of 22 hours per week to Council work and are effectively on duty all year round. Current basic Councillor allowances thus represent an hourly rate of as little as £7.
“The Lib Dems recognise the importance of listening to residents and being responsible with taxpayers’ money. We must also ensure we are planning ahead to attract the brightest and best to serve in the Council chamber in years to come.”
According to a National Census of Local Authority Councillors, the average age of Councillors in 2018 was 59 years. Bath and North East Somerset Council does not collect age data but the majority of Councillors are believed to be between 50 and 70.