County councillors in North Yorkshire are set to forego any increase in their allowances this year.
An independent remuneration panel annually reviews allowances paid to councillors for their work and any special responsibilities. The panel is recommending that in view of the financial strain on the County Council and the economic impact on the region as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, there should be no increase in allowances in the coming financial year. Members will consider the recommendation at their meeting on 17 February.
However, the panel believes strongly that members should be appropriately compensated for their contributions and to attract the required calibre of candidate from diverse backgrounds. Therefore, where possible, they would like to see further increases in the coming years to ensure allowances reflect the demands made on councillors.
Comparison with similar authorities shows that despite increases in the allowance in recent years, North Yorkshire is placed 12th out of 16 for the level of its basic allowance and remains eight per cent below the average.
John Thompson, chairman of the independent remuneration panel, said: “In making our recommendation, we take into consideration the current increased pressure on councillors’ workload, due to continued reductions in council budgets and the rationing of resources, as well as the impact of an ageing population. At the same time, we are mindful that the role carries a strong element of voluntary public service for the community.
“A significant increase would be required to further improve North Yorkshire’s position with regard to comparable authorities. We do not believe that would be appropriate this year. In our recommendation, we have taken into account the severe impact of the pandemic on the financial welfare of the region.
“Our recommendation also takes into account that council procedures are unlikely to return to normal until sometime in 2021 or even later, the emerging financial strain on the County Council’s resources and the declared government policy of no pay increases in the public sector.”
Cllr Carl Les, Leader of the County Council, said: “I thank the panel for the work they do and for looking at this issue with independent eyes. It is important that the level at which allowances are set are not seen as a barrier that would prevent anyone from standing for a council position, regardless of such things as their age, their personal circumstances and whether they are in work.
“However, I agree with the panel’s view that this is not the right time to recommend any increase in allowances and I will be supporting their recommendation when it is put before the full council.”
The basic allowance for a North Yorkshire county councillor for 2020/21 is £10,142.