Isle of Wight councillors voted to increase their pay by more than £200 last night despite a call to freeze it while the Island suffers from Covid-19.
At a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council last night (Wednesday), the member’s allowance scheme was passed which, following the advice of an independent remuneration panel, increases councillors basic and special responsibility allowances by 2.75 per cent.
This means the basic allowance for all 40 Isle of Wight Councillors for 2020/21 is now £8,231, a £220 increase from the previous financial year when councillors received £8,011.
Andre: Call to freeze allowances
Cllr Debbie Andre, leader of the Island Independent Group, however, asked councillors to freeze the allowance increase.
“It is totally inappropriate in this situation we are currently in to be accepting an increase.
“I know was agreed as an annual percentage increase but in light of recent times I propose we freeze the allowance.”
The move was only supported by two other councillors, Michael Lilley and Paul Fuller, while six councillors abstained from the vote — Cllrs Rodney Downer, John Howe, John Medland, Lora Peacey-Wilcox, Ian Stephens and Shirley Smart.
Majority approved the increase
However, 29 councillors voted against the motion and with the majority, approved the increase.
Cllr Richard Hollis said:
“The work does not stop — valuable councillors put in a hell of a lot of work, I don’t see why they should be belittled for having a small amount of recompense for the hours and hours that they do.”
Stewart: Councillors can choose to not take any part of their allowance
Leader of the council, Cllr Dave Stewart, said:
“I would say any councillor can choose not to take any part of their allowance.
“I also support the raise in staff salaries as they have worked very hard during the pandemic.”
Hutchinson: We ought to follow panel’s recommendations
Cabinet member for strategic finance, Cllr Stuart Hutchinson, said the allowances were linked to the pay awards in the first places to take away any political debates. He said:
“We are fortunate to have an independent review panel and we ought to follow the recommendations — sometimes they will be beneficial, sometimes they won’t.”
Supporting the freeze, Cllr Lilley said:
“I accept what others have said but these are exceptional times and I think it is important to make the statement to our communities that we want to share with them some of the absolute pain they have.
“I don’t see this as a political statement but a being a human being statement.”
Cllr Clare Mosdell reminded the meeting of ex-councillor Julia Baker-Smith who had had to use a foodbank while getting the allowance.
“The allowances are not huge and we shouldn’t ever compare our financial circumstances to others. We shouldn’t be putting people in a position where we have to have this discussion. Bills haven’t frozen.”
Reasons to support the rise
Cllr Andrew Garratt also pointed out that should councillors wish to do so they could always donate the money to charity.
Cllr Geoff Brodie said the allowance was pretty low but is an important element of attracting people to stand as a councillor from ordinary backgrounds.
Other increases were made to special allowances some councillors receive for fulfilling other roles in the council, such as being a cabinet member, chair of a committee and a leader of a group.
The leader of the council receives an additional £16,462, deputy leader £10,289 and cabinet member £8,231.
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some alterations and additions may be been made by OnTheWight. Ed