Councillors voted to increase their expenses and backdate it to the start of the financial year, but some argued it was wrong to do so when residents were struggling to pay the bills.
In a meeting on March 6 the majority of North East Derbyshire District Council members voted in favour of a 4.04 per cent increase to expenses, to be backdated to April 2022, the start of the financial year.
The move, proposed by an independent remuneration panel, means each councillors’ basic allowance will increase by just over £230 to £5,969.83 for 2022/23 and was prompted by the authority’s decision to give its employees a blanket pay rise of £1,925.
Meanwhile the increase in special responsibility allowance for those holding office will see the leader and deputy leaders’ allocations increase to £20,521.54 and £14,746.39 respectively, while cabinet members’ expenses will increase to £9,405.40.
The Conservative leader of the council Councillor Alex Dale, who along with deputy leader Councillor Charlotte Cupit voted against the increase, commented that he hoped all members agreed that costs should be kept low this year.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat group Councillor Ross Shipman said he could not support the recommendation, stating: “For me while we’re asking people to pay more Council Tax and talking about budgets being squeezed, for us to go to residents and go ‘oh but we’re getting a pay rise’ is just not right.”
Conservative chairman Councillor Martin Thacker responded: “In the mind of the public, no time is ever a good time, because they’re always thinking we’ve got our noses in the trough.”
He commented that in real terms the proposed increase was considerably below the current 10 per cent consumer price index rate (CPI), and members’ expenses had been ‘eroded away over a period of time’ by inflation.
He added that the increase was ‘recognition’ of the work councillors do behind the scenes that ‘nobody knows about’.
“Everything else that we do as public servants and I think that we shouldn’t be undervaluing ourselves and our contribution,” Coun Thacker added.
He reminded the room that the figure had been arrived at by an independent panel, concluding: “The simple fact is if you don’t want the allowance, don’t accept it.”
In total 34 members voted for the increase, while 11 voted against and two abstained.
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