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Council set to consider allowance report

Test Valley borough councillors are set to consider the outcome of an independent review of members’ allowances at a full council meeting next week.

The Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), which advises on councillors’ salaries and last recommended changes six years ago is proposing an uplift in the basic allowance and most of the special responsibility allowances to reflect the increased workload associated with those roles. This is because in 2019 the number of councillors reduced from 48 to 43, meaning the current elected members represent more people than ever before.

But members of the council’s cabinet have said that they will put forward an amended recommendation at the meeting on the 27 January, which would see them defer any increase until September, once it is hoped the vaccine programme will have been rolled out, the wider economy opened back up again and the country is well on its way to recovery. 

The IRP is recommending a £354 rise in the basic allowance taking it to £7,390 per annum – calculating that Test Valley members are spending around 18.5 hours a week on their roles, up from 14 hours in the previous scheme. They continue to recommend that 45 per cent of councillors’ work should be voluntary. 

The independent panel also proposes uplifting the leader’s salary from £13,339 to £16,258 and increasing the deputy leader’s from £9,118 to £10,346, recognising they are both hugely time-consuming roles. Their current allowances are the lowest of any district council in Hampshire and would remain below average following the recommended increase. The leader of Basingstoke receives £24,312 by comparison.

The changes would also see a £909 reduction in the special responsibility allowance for the chairman of the licensing committee and a £182 reduction for the vice-chairman, due to a decrease in workload for those roles. The total cost of the recommended uplift is £22,626, which is less the than the £35,180 saved by reducing the number of councillors.

Corporate portfolio holder, Tracey Tasker, said: “It is right that councillor allowances are set by an independent panel, and in usual circumstances I wouldn’t hesitate in advising that we accept their recommendations in full. I know councillors have been working flat out to support people, especially recently, but with our focus firmly on defeating the coronavirus pandemic, it is my intention to table an amended recommendation at full council next week, proposing we defer the changes until September to coincide with the recovery.”