Thurrock councillors reject allowance rise amid debt mountain

Thurrock councillors have voted against giving themselves a four per cent increase in allowances.

An independent panel had previouslly recommended that all councillors should receive the increase in allowances and it should be backdated to last year.

While the council is struggling in the face of huge debts run up because of a string of bad investments and having effectively declared bankruptcy by issuing a s114 notice, councillors attending a full council meeting on Wednesday felt the time was not right to hike their allowances.

Councillors currently receive an allowance of £9,595 per annum, with cabinet and committee members receiving extra allowances. The panel recommended the leader of the council, Andrew Jefferies should receive 3.5 times the basic allowance.

However, following a lengthy meeting of the corporate overview and scrutiny committee the previous evening, Cllr Jefferies said: “After last night’s five-hour mega meeting finishing gone midnight I’m sure there is no one that doesn’t feel councillors deserve an allowance that reflects the time commitment to their duties.

“However, given the position that Thurrock Council finds itself in I feel this is not the right time to give ourselves and increase in allowance. This evening, the Conservative Group will not be voting in favour of any rise in allowances.”

His views were echoed by John Kent, leader of the Labour Group. He said: “Voting on your own allowance is always one of the most unedifying things we have to do, particularly unedifying given the situation the council finds itself in.

“We agree with the leader and will also be voting against the recommendations.”

A report to the council showed the cost of incrementing the 2022/23 allowances by four per cent would have been an additional £30,180. The additional cost proposed for 2024/25 year to 49 Members’ basic allowance would be £33,569 per annum.

The cabinet’s seven members would have received £18,067 and had the increase been approved and overview and scrutiny chairs and vice Chairs would have been paid £17,193 per annum.

The panel said: “The panel has been guided by the overarching principle that it should seek to minimise barriers to public service to enable a wide range of individuals to become a councillor without incurring undue personal financial cost.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter