Essex councillors to receive 5% rise in allowances

Essex county councillors are set to receive a 5.3 per cent increase in their allowances – increasing the cost to the taxpayer by more than £60,000. The recommendation from the independent remuneration panel means the basic allowance will increase from £12,292 pa to £12,941.

It means the total annual amount in basic allowance for all 75 councillors and two non-elected members is set to increase from £922,021.2 to £970,702. Special responsibility allowances are also going up by the same rate for those councillors who have specific roles such as the leader, deputy leader and cabinet members.

The total special responsibility allowance bill could be as high as £734,000 per year. The total combined expense of special responsibility allowance and basic allowances could be as a high as £1.7m not including travel and other expenses.

That is up from the total last year of £1.64m– albeit some councillors including leader Kevin Bentley have not taken the last recommended increase which could have taken him to £55,314. He is still only taking the 2021/22 total of £54,000.

Every councillor is entitled to a basic allowance each year to enable them to carry out their duties. There are also special responsibility allowances for certain roles such as acting as leader or deputy leader of a political group within the authority, or presiding at meetings of a committee or a sub-committee of the authority.

The purpose of the Independent Remuneration Panel is to review the allowances paid to councillors. These include allowances for councillors’ basic duties, special responsibilities, childcare, travel and substance. The panel makes recommendations to the council on the appropriate level of payments to be made. The panel is made up of local people, not connected with the council.

A statement to the full council due to meet on May 16 said: “Members are asked to update the constitution to reflect the new rates for the member allowances which apply automatically following the annual adjustment in line with the index agreed by the council when it adopted the new scheme of allowances in July 2022.

“The index chosen by the council is the Office of National Statistics Public Sector Pay index – this gives a percentage figure and avoids the difficulties that have been experienced by authorities who are linked to the national local government pay award. We can rely on this index for a period of four years from 2022.

“Some members choose to forgo any part of the allowance.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter