SOLIHULL Council leader Ken Meeson has been forced on the defensive over recent pay rises for local councillors.
He said the £7,500-a-year allowance paid to backbenchers, understood to be up from £7,000 last year, was less than half the remuneration of members of Birmingham Council - but their workload was no smaller than that of their city counterparts.
Councillor Meeson was responding to a call by Solihull Ratepayers’ Association for the council to exercise pay restraint during the economic crisis and impose a freeze on allowances.
He said members received two small increases last year after the council had fallen well behind other authorities on pay, and another rise had been recommended for the coming year by the Independent Remuneration Panel.
This would be considered by the council’s governance committee. Cabinet members, group leaders and committee chairmen receive extra responsibility allowances.
Cllr Meeson said: “Gone are the days when members just had to turn up for the occasional meeting. The workload for all councillors has increased considerably.
“Many cabinet posts involve long hours and some of these posts carry statutory responsibilities for which the holder is personally responsible.”
However the secretary of the ratepayers’ association, Trevor Eames, a former member of the borough council, said with council tax in Solihull rising by an inflation-busting 4.5 per cent, councillors should be held to account.
“There should be no reward for failure,” he said. “If council tax is increased by more than inflation this should be a major consideration in determining councillors’ pay.
“Councillors should understand that with short-time working, pay cuts and unemployment, all other sections of the community are having a hard time. The council must move into the real world.”
Mr Eames has written to the remuneration panel to suggest that pay increases for councillors should relate directly to changes in the Retail Price Index. If there was a deflationary trend, the allowances package should be reduced accordingly, he said.
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