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53% rise in councillor allowances approved

PUBLISHED: 20:27 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:14 23 January 2020

East Suffolk Council's full council meeting discussed the proposed 53% allowance increase in Melton. Picture: RIDUNA HOLDINGS

East Suffolk Council's full council meeting discussed the proposed 53% allowance increase in Melton. Picture: RIDUNA HOLDINGS

Picture: RIDUNA HOLDINGS

Controversial proposals to up councillor allowances in East Suffolk by 53% - more than £2,600 a year - have been given unanimous approval.

Steve Gallant, Conservative leader of East Suffolk Council, defended the rise. Picture: PAUL NIXON/EAST SUFFOLK COUNCILSteve Gallant, Conservative leader of East Suffolk Council, defended the rise. Picture: PAUL NIXON/EAST SUFFOLK COUNCIL

Controversial proposals to up councillor allowances by 53% - more than £2,600 a year - have been given unanimous approval.

East Suffolk Council's full council meeting met this evening to vote on proposals to raise the annual allowance, which were put forward by an independent panel.

Those recommendations proposed an increase in the basic allowance up to £7,500 per year - £2,616.60 more than the current allowance of £4,883.40 for all councillors.

On top of that, the leader's allowance will see a £4,000 increase, the deputy leader nearly £3,000 and cabinet members nearly £1,600.

Steve Gallant, Conservative leader of the authority, said the reduction in the number of councillors from 90 - when Waveney and Suffolk Coastal councils were in existence - to 55 under the new authority meant that: "In effect, we have got 55 councillors carrying out the work of 90."

According to the independent panel, some councillors had reported workloads more than double what it had been previously.

Mr Gallant said: "Remuneration has historically been low in comparison to other councils, and this report balances and redresses that situation."

He added: "The council must start to attract more and diverse people to the role who otherwise might find the role inviable because of the financial considerations.

"We acknowledge the lack of diversity in the council."

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According to Mr Gallant, even with an increase in allowances the authority has still generated a £112,000 annual saving compared to when Waveney and Suffolk Coastal were separate authorities.

It is understood that the council will have a lower basic rate that eight of the other 11 authorities in the region.

The report prepared by the independent panel said that councillors now had greater distances to travel for meetings, with more work as a result of having larger wards.

Peter Byatt, leader of the Labour group said the review had been "thorough".

He added: "My ward has doubled in size, my workload has doubled.

"We should not be afraid to stand up and say, 'actually we work hard for you'."

A poll conducted by the EADT of 226 people found 86% were against such a large increase.

Graham Elliott, leader of the Green group, said: "We need to attract a more diverse range of councillors.

"I have great difficulty attracting people to stand as candidates and the level of remuneration is one of the reasons why.

"In principle I do support this but this is not the right time to do it.

"We should have done this before May - you want it done just before a council election so we are not voting on our own rise, we are voting on the next council."

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