Council is invited to consider the Independent Remuneration Panel’s report on the review of Members’ Allowances for 2020-21 and the Panel’s resulting recommendations.
The Leader of the Council thanked the Chairman and members of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) as well as the Member Services Manager for their work in producing the comprehensive report and conducting an extensive set of interviews.
The Leader noted that discussions around Member remunerations was a sensitive issue and recognised the personal and financial sacrifices made by Members when undertaking their civic duties. He noted that his preferred approach was to consider the report and its recommendations in its entirety, which would deliver a three per cent reduction in the total allowances resulting in a net saving to the Council.
Members made the following comments:
· That the Leader of the Council rightly emphasised the sensitivity of the matter, but it was vital to residents that Members’ remunerations were scrutinised particularly as the pandemic had highlighted the socio-economic difficulties faced by many residents.
· Thanked the IRP for its work in producing the final report, noting that the removal of the twenty-two per cent planned uplift for select committee chairmen and the introduction of the new Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) for the Select Committee Task Group leads (interim title) was welcome as the resultant saving to the Council was a three per cent or £38,000 net reduction.
· Disagreed with the proposed abolition of the SRA for committee Vice-Chairmen, as for instance there was a large amount of work required for the Planning and Regulatory Committee which often took decisions that had a dramatic impact on local communities.
· That the allowances for committee Vice-Chairmen had not been looked into properly as second to committee Chairmen, they put in additional hours compared to ordinary committee members.
· The IRP should look to encourage a greater diversity of Members with a salary to match the work undertaken.
· That positions that had their SRA abolished were devalued as they had the same responsibilities without the allowance. Members had differing financial circumstances so to some Members the SRA was vital.
· That it was not appropriate for Members to vote on their remunerations as beneficiaries of the SRAs and a freeze in allowances was suggested in light of Covid-19 and the economic crises.
· Proposed that recommendation eight was amended to state ‘that the role description, title and remuneration for the Deputy Cabinet Member role is updated’ in order that it was clearer.
· That it was important that allowances were to keep pace with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) and the level of responsibility involved.
· Stressed that it was important that Members were paid adequately and incentivised so the Council could attract people from less wealthy backgrounds in order to have a mix of diverse Members.
· That it did cost to be a Member, urging caution to avoid putting Members in embarrassing positions where depending on their financial circumstances they accepted or could reject their allowance. The Council and IRP must be practical especially considering how much Members used to get and the continuous reduction in pensions.
Relating to the Basic Allowance (65 Members voted For, 6 Against and 6 Abstentions):
1. Following the application of all other recommendations in this report, all allowances are rounded up to nearest £10 to avoid allowances being stated to the nearest pence.
2. That the basic allowance is increased from its current level by 1.7 per cent to £12,660 from the date of the 2020 AGM in line with CPI from September 2019.
3. That the basic allowance is adjusted annually on 1 April thereafter in line with the CPI from the previous September. This recommendation will apply for a maximum of four years at which point the Panel must revisit the allowance.
Relating to Special Responsibility Allowances (52 Members voted For, 8 Against and 17 Abstentions):
4. Each Member may only receive one Special Responsibility Allowance.
5. That all special responsibility allowances are increased from their current level by 1.7 per cent from the date of the 2020 AGM in line with CPI from September 2019. This recommendation does not apply to those allowances covered by recommendations 13 and 14.
6. That all special responsibility allowances are adjusted annually on 1 April thereafter in line with the CPI from the previous September. This recommendation will apply for a maximum of four years at which point the Panel must revisit the allowances.
7. That there are no changes, other than the indexation adjustment in recommendation 5, to the following allowances: Chairman of the Council, Vice- Chairman of the Council, Leader, Deputy Leader, Cabinet Member, Deputy Cabinet Members, Select Committee Chairmen, Planning Committee Chairman, Audit and Governance Committee Chairman, Pension Fund Committee Chairman, Local and Joint Committee Chairmen (where chaired by a Surrey Member), and Opposition Leaders.
8. That the role description for the Deputy Cabinet Member role is updated.
9. That a limit is placed on the number of Deputy Cabinet Members in post at any one time, the Panel recommends four but accepts this is a matter for the Leader.
10. That the governance arrangements for select committees and their task groups or sub committees are clarified, including a role description prepared setting out the responsibilities assumed by Members currently designated as select committee Vice-Chairmen.
11. The eight Members currently designated as select committee Vice-Chairmen receive a new SRA. The role attracting this new SRA will be known as Select Committee Task Group leads and will be interim pending the formal review. These Members will receive an SRA of £1,530 effective from the date of the AGM.
12. Once governance arrangements and role descriptions have been confirmed, the Panel is asked to assess the role for an SRA against the requirements of the Regulations.
13. That the SRA for all committee Vice-Chairmen is abolished.
14. That the SRA for the office holders of political groups is abolished.
Relating to Inclusivity (74 Members voted For, 0 Against and 2 Abstentions):
15. The hourly cap on childcare allowance is abolished. Members may claim actual costs incurred in performing approved duties.
16. Members can claim any additional costs incurred by them where they can demonstrate that the cost was wholly and necessarily incurred in order to participate in approved duties. Individual claims under this provision to be scrutinised as usual by Democratic Services.
17. The hourly cap on dependent carers allowance is abolished. Members may claim actual costs incurred in performing approved duties.
18. That the Council introduces a shared parental leave policy for Members.
19. Democratic Services to be proactive about raising awareness that these costs are claimable with both existing and potential new Members.
20. Members to act as role models by claiming what they are entitled to, and thereby demonstrating to new Members that they will not be financially disadvantaged due to personal circumstances.
Relating to Expenses and Approved Duties (with no Members voting Against):
21. That mileage rates are linked with officer rates, apart from fully electric car rates.
22. That Members may claim 45p per mile for using fully electric cars to perform approved duties.