Councillor Isobel Seccombe, Leader of the Council, noted the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel and the suggested increases to Members Allowances. However, it was her view that, due to the economic situation that had developed since the Panel completed its work, the increase was not accepted and, instead, she moved the Member Allowances Scheme as set out at Appendix 2 of the report. Councillor Peter Butlin seconded.
Councillor Jonathan Chilvers proposed an amendment seeking an additional paragraph to be inserted after paragraph number 12 of the Member Allowances Scheme as set out at Appendix 2 of the report:
“Details of all allowances paid in accordance with paragraphs 2 (Basic Allowance) and 10-14 (Special Responsibility, Co-Optee and Spokesperson Allowances) of the Members Allowances Scheme 2022-2026 and received by each Councillor in respect of each role they undertake will be published on the Council website.”
In moving the amendment, Councillor Chilvers stated that he was supportive of the link to the staff pay increase and did not think it was appropriate to increase pay beyond that. However, he did consider that the Executive were underpaid, particularly the Leader and Deputy Leader whose allowances compared unfavourably to those paid at neighbouring authorities and he would have been supportive of an increase for those roles. He also considered that the proposed change in arrangements for opposition groups was fairer. He added that he was proposing the amendment so that all information about Special Responsibility Allowances was published and to give greater transparency about the expenditure of the Leadership pots to support payments for Group Spokesperson and Cabinet Support, both of which he considered were valid roles, but he welcomed more transparency on the payments.
Councillor Will Robert seconded the amendment, considering that the publication of information set out in the amendment would ensure that the expenditure within the scheme was transparent to the public.
Councillor Sarah Feeney noted that staff on NJC terms had lost money in real terms over the past 12 years and this similarly limited increase would help to focus attention on staff pay.
Councillor Sarah Boad highlighted and applauded the availability of reimbursement for carer expenses, which was echoed by Councillor Judy Falp. Councillor Boad suggested that political groups should ensure potential candidates were aware of the ability to claim these expenses as one way to support a cross section of representatives.
Councillor Peter Butlin expressed the view that if the Panel’s recommendations had been received in the previous year, he would have accepted them to bring allowances in line with other authorities. However, in the current climate, with a rising cost of living he did not believe it was the right time to increase councillor allowances. Whilst he did not consider it was appropriate to top the comparison table on allowances, Councillor Butlin supported the view that it was important to try to attract a broad spectrum of people to represent Warwickshire and he recognised that allowances played a part in that. He, therefore, reluctantly supported the recommendations.
Councillor Jonathan Chilvers expressed his hope that Councillors would recognise his efforts to increase transparency and support the amendment.
Councillor Isobel Seccombe echoed the comments of Councillor Butlin, noting that the cost of living and the difficulties being faced by staff and the public made it inappropriate to accept the increases proposed by the Panel at this time. She did not accept the amendment and expressed the view that annual allowances were already published and, as the Chamber worked well cross-party, there was an ability to hold each other to account without changing the existing arrangements.
A vote was held on the Green group amendment which was lost. A vote was held on the original motion which was carried by a majority.
That the report and recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel be noted and that the Member Allowances Scheme at Appendix 2 to the report be approved for the period May 2022 to May 2026.