Full Council : York Conservatives Statement on Councillor Allowances

At yesterday's Full Council, Cllr Paul Doughty addressed the issue of the rise in Councillor's basic allowance as well as Special Responsibility Allowances and the Leader of the Council's allowance. 

It was disappointing to see that all parties voted for the bumper increases in allowances - with one Liberal Democrat Councillor who had publicly stated he would vote against the increases going AWOL at the time of the vote so he didn't have to disappoint his party colleagues. Questions will be asked about whether he is a servant of his voters in Strensall Ward or his Party whips!

The Conservative Group did attempt to attach an amendment to the motion but it was rejected by City of York Council. The amendment that the Conservatives would have agreed to but was rejected by Democratic Services was as follows:-

“Members thank the IRP for their work. We do not wish to adopt the recommendations on this occasion.

Instead, for the remainder of this four-year administration and thereafter until a further review, we move that any Councillor allowance increases are linked and limited to a maximum of inflation (CPI currently 1.5%) at the start of each municipal year or the same level agreed for Council staff in any annual salary review, whichever is the lower amount. This would not be back-dated but commence from the next municipal year.”

With no opportunity for amending the motion, the Conservative Group voted in the interest of Council Tax payers who will be inevitably handed an increase in rates in the next budget to fund this increase in allowances.

Cllr Doughty's remarks were as follows: 

"The Conservatives will be voting against the proposals that will see Councillors vote themselves a very lucrative early Christmas present! To confirm this commitment, the Conservatives will not accept or take these increases should a majority of Councillors vote for it. There’s an expectation that the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the Greens and Independents in Bishopthorpe and Copmanthorpe all agreed a prior pact to accept whatever recommendations are made and will vote for it. Shame on Labour who used to claim they were the party of the working classes and who they will now raid to fund these increases.

There has been Whataboutery offered by some to argue why they think they deserve the increases and try to deflect what many residents will see as greed. We’ll hear lots more flannel tonight no doubt. It is true that we accepted previous proposals in 2015. At that point, there had not been increases for 8 years, there’d been the financial crash which meant we all had to tighten our belts and by 2015, there was some acceptance that there was some catching up to do. From 2015, increases linked to Council staff pay were also built in and there have been increases to allowances each year since. Why then, this time round, do we have eye-watering increases varying between 12.75% and upto 50%? There has to be questions about honour here.

The LibDem Leader of the Council gets to vote himself in excess of an extra £6,000 per year tonight and some Committee Chairs will see their allowances jump 50%, for in some cases, meeting less than once a month. How can we reconcile this with average pay increases for city residents and in particular for regular grade staff employed by the Council who have had modest increments? You can’t. Nor do I accept ‘selected’ authority comparisons in the report. York is a compact city, we don’t have large distances to travel, some of those are rural authorities where considerable travel is needed or authorities that have far greater social issues to deal with than we do. Allowances were never meant to be a job salary. The motivation to be a Councillor should be to serve the public and do the best for the communities in which we live. In any event, each of the main political parties were all able to put up a full slate of candidates at the local elections in May proving the level of allowances are not a barrier and we all knew in advance the allowances we would receive.

I don’t criticise the Remuneration Panel and I thank them for their time and work. The report tells us there were 5 meetings between Councillors and Officers with the IRP. The Conservatives were invited to just two of those. I can’t comment on the meetings I wasn’t invited to but certainly the Group Leaders meeting that I did attend, I would certainly suggest that there were heavy leanings from some to say that they deserved more and I will leave it to others to make their own conclusions as to whether this was a major influence. Though not reflected in the short minutes for the meeting I attended, I did make it clear that I couldn’t see any justification for

increases and that I would not be able to support any allowance increases above inflation which has been around 1.5% the past few months or indeed in excess of those made to Council employees as part of annual salary reviews. Anything else would be indefensible.

Colleagues, this is your last chance to turn down these proposals and keep your consciences intact."