Welwyn Hatfield councillors vote to reject allowances increase

PUBLISHED: 17:44 20 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:44 20 September 2018

Welwyn Hatfield councillors rejected recommendations to raise their allowances.

Welwyn Hatfield councillors rejected recommendations to raise their allowances.

Archant

Welwyn Hatfield Council has voted against recommendations to increase its members’ pay.

An Independent Remuneration Panel had said councillors should receive a two per cent rise in basic and special responsibility allowance – taking their basic annual pay from £5,051 to £5,152.

But at last night’s Full Council Meeting, 21 councillors voted against the proposals, 15 backed them, and eight abstained.

The vote means the council leader’s overall allowance will remain at £20,176, while Cabinet members will scoop £14,727.

Council leader Mandy Perkins, who abstained, said: “It’s a really difficult one. I can see every side of the argument, and I just felt it was fairer on my colleagues for them not to have to feel that they had to follow me.”

Reflecting on the decision, she said she was “nervous”, as not gradually raising allowances can eventually result in one large increase later down the line.

The first and second opposition party leaders’ income will remain at £10,839 and £6,939 respectively.

Labour’s leader Kieran Thorpe said that although he voted in favour of the pay rise, he believes the councillors’ collective decision to reject it was the correct one.

He explained that he voted for the rise for other councillors who would have benefited, despite it being a “cut” for himself.

Had the proposals been accepted, Cllr Thorpe’s special responsibility allowance would have dropped by £49. But, coupled with the rise in basic pay, his overall income would have risen by £52 from £10,839 to £10,891.

Tory Cabinet members would also each have scooped £294 more.

Cllr Thorpe said: “Ordinarily, I believe any increase should follow that of the wider council workforce.

“Due to huge increases awarded to the Conservative council leadership in recent years, however, I think the reluctance shown by councillors from all parties in rejecting this rise was the right decision at this time.”

Liberal Democrat leader Malcolm Cowan, who voted in favour of the increase, said: “I voted for it because it was recommended by the independent committee that has been set up.

“What is the point of setting them up then ignoring their advice?”

In 2016, WHC hiked up its allowances based the same panel’s recommendation, which brought it in line with the county average.

Cllr Cowan said that “monster pay rise” had to be questioned, but snubbing a two per cent increase seemed “pernickety”.

However, members did back plans to introduce a new care allowance, which would see them be able to claim against the cost of a child or dependent adult.

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