Northamptonshire councillors vote to cut their own allowances in show of 'solidarity' with pay-freeze staff

Councillors voted to slash their allowances at County Hall today, a week after a damning inspection.
Councillors voted to slash their allowances at County Hall today, a week after a damning inspection.

County councillors have voted to slash their allowances by up to 20 per cent in Northamptonshire despite the an independent panel recommending they stayed the same.

As part of last month’s controversial budget at County Hall, the Conservative group proposed members took a 10 per cent cut to their basic allowance indefinitely- in a bid to save £55,000-a-year.

Councillors voted in favour of slashing their allowances by up to 20 per cent this afternoon.

Councillors voted in favour of slashing their allowances by up to 20 per cent this afternoon.

Extra allowances for those appearing on committees or taking up cabinet posts were earmarked for a 20 per cent cut.

However, council law dictates any cut to allowances needs to be put to an independent panel drawn from members of the community.

Today though, councillors ignored the recommendations of that panel, which urged the authority to make no cut to their pay

The full council meeting at county hall saw the original proposal approved unanimously.

Councillor Chris Stanbra (Lib Dem, Oakley) said: "I voted against the budget, as I didn’t like it.

"But this was a proposal that was absolutely right.

"To do anything else would be folly in the extreme.”

The allowance comes after staff at One Angel square were handed a blanket pay freeze last month as part of the £40 million budget cuts.

Councillor Andy Mercer (Con, Rushden South) said the cut would show "solidarity" with frustrated employees - some of whom also saw their performance bonuses removed last year and were forced to take an enforced day’s holiday to balance books.

But the independent remuneration panel saw differently.

“The panel feel citizens should not be prevented from participating in an election by a level of allowance that does not cover the costs associated with being a councillor,” its report read.

Their recommendations by the panel, which including a magistrate, a financial controller and a management consultant, were ignored in favour of an allowance cut.

The move will save the council £121,000 a year, prompting some to describe the move as little more than a ‘gesture’.

In total, 17 different special responsibility roles will be cut.

The leader’s special allowance will reduce from £32,192 to £25,750 and the basic rate will reduce from £9,236 to £8,312.

Though the move received wide support, two Conservative councillors said the authority could attract better talent to the chamber with a more generous allowance.

Councillor Jonathan Eakins (Con, Brickhill and Queensway) said: "The staff should get more and we should get more - everyone in the country should get paid more."

The allowances will be reviewed again before the next county elections in 2021.