I HAVE read with interest recent letters in the Express about councillors’ expenses and it might be useful to readers to see details of how a councillor’s pay is worked out.
It is important to say that councillors receive pay for the work they do as councillors, in the same way as other workers receive pay for the jobs they do. Included in that pay is an amount of money to cover expenses such as telephone calls, travelling expenses and all the other things they need to do their job well.
The level of pay varies from council to council with different rates applying in Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees and Calderdale.
Every council, including Wakefield, is obliged by law to appoint an independent remuneration panel to advise the council on, among other things, the rates of pay for councillors. Wakefield’s panel was appointed by politicians and senior officers of the council following a rigorous recruitment process.
The panel, which is unpaid, is made up of professionals with the skills and knowledge to undertake this important role. The panel makes recommendations to the council on pay matters and other things. However, the final decision on pay rests with the council and not with the panel.
In deciding what the pay of a councillor should be, the panel talked to many councillors about their job as ward councillors and drew up a job description for the role.
The panel identified the skills and knowledge required to do the job well. This information was used to determined a rate of pay for the job of a ward councillor.
The panel also recognised that an element of a councillor’s job is public service, which the councillor undertakes freely.
All 63 Wakefield councillors are paid a basic allowance of £10,985 per annum for carrying out their job as a ward councillor. In addition to this some ward councillors have special responsibilities.
These include the leader, leader of the opposition, chairman of planning and chairman of standards. These councillors are paid an additional allowance called a special responsibility allowance to recognise the extra time, effort, knowledge and skills required to carry out this extra work. Currently these allowances start at £2,957 per annum. Of course all these figures are in the public domain.
The panel also considers how allowances should change over time. The Wakefield panel, in line with other panels across the region, decided some time ago that the changes to councillors’ pay should be linked to that of council employees. The current recommendation from the panel is that the level of pay should remain unchanged as employees pay has not risen.
The final decision on the pay of councillors lies with the council. It is also up to individual councillors to make their own decision on how much of their pay they take. I am aware that in some authorities councillors have chosen to give up some of their allowance and of course in Westminster at least one MP does not take his full pay.
IAN J BROWN
Independent Remuneration Panel