North Kesteven District Council defends increases in councillors' allowances
A district authority has defended its decision to increase councillors' allowances by 6 per cent, despite cuts to services and a three-year pay freeze for staff.
North Kesteven District Council (NKDC) has said the move will bring members' allowances in line with those claimed in other districts.
It also says it will recoup the money by encouraging councillors' to travel less and reduce their mileage claims, and by cutting some special responsibility payments.
The Tory-led district authority's full council approved an allowance increase of £266 for each of its 43 councillors, which will come into effect in April. This adds up to a total payout of £11,438 for the year 2013-14, marking an increase of more than six per cent.
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The council is also aiming to save a £630,000 in the next financial year even though it has cut £2 million from it's budget in the last two years.
Councillors plan to introduce a £25-a-year charge for garden waste collections. They also plan to share some services with both West Lindsey and South Kesteven district councils and increase their share of council tax bills by an inflation-busting 3.66 per cent.
Other councils would need to hold a referendum for any rise in council tax above two per cent, but NKDC received special permission from Government for it's increase because rates in the district have been traditionally low. Councillors at North Kesteven's current allowance of £4,174 is set to rise to £4,440.
Alan Thomas, deputy chief executive of NKDC, said: "We have the Independent Remuneration Panel which looks at councillor allowances and has come to the conclusion that the basic allowance NKDC pays is the lowest in Lincolnshire – and one of the lowest in the regions – so they felt the need for it to be increased.
"I can appreciate people's concerns and, as a member of staff, I haven't had a pay increase in four years.
"But this isn't going to cost the taxpayer any more than it already is. It's swings and roundabouts.
"On the one hand, the panel is saying it thinks the basic allowance is too low, but on the other, it's saying perhaps the amount we're paying councillors in mileage allowance is too high, so they've recommended we reduce the mileage allowance and that will compensate for the increase.
"If you worked out the number of hours councillors undertake their duties on behalf of the council and residents, £4,174 is a pittance, really."
Eleanor McGrath, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Taxpayers will be shocked that councillors have awarded themselves an increase in their allowances at a time when the council is looking to make savings."