Bury town hall Credit: MEN
Councillors in Bury are to receive increases in allowances of more than 20 % after an independent panel reviewed their pay.
At a meeting of the full council at Bury Town Hall, 47 of 57 members present voted to accept the recommendations of a three strong panel who conducted the first review of councillor allowances in more than a decade.
One member who vehemently opposed the pay rises told the council that those who supported the sceme’s implementation lacked ‘any moral conscience’ and that the uplifts were ‘unethical’. The recommendations put forward by the independent remuneration panel were supported by all Labour and Conservative councillors.
The pay rises will see each of the 51 councillors receive a basic allowance of £10,791 per year, up from £8,947 in 2021/22, a 21 % rise. Councillors with special responsibilities will also see their allowances go up.
Leader of the council, labour’s Eamonn O’Brien will see his special responsibility additional allowance jump from £25,503 per year to £32,733, a rise of 28 per cent. The deputy leader of the council’s allowance will rise to £19,424 from £15,307, up 27 per cent, while the Conservative opposition leader Russell Bernstein will see his additional allowance increase by 27 per cent to £10,683 from the previous figure of £8,418.
Labour cabinet members will receive an increase of 43 p% with the new additional special allowance set at £14,568 up from £10,202. The biggest special allowance rise in percentage terms is for deputy cabinet members, who will receive a 63 % rise to £2,185 from £1,388.
Research done by the independent panel said that the previous Bury allowances were the lowest or next to lowest in every category across all of Greater Manchester. The annual cost of the uplifted allowance scheme is estimated at £788,699 for the next 12 months.
The Radcliffe First party put forward an amendment to the scheme, which took out any rises in allowances for councillors. It was proposed by Coun Carol Birchmore.
She said: “This year is shaping up to be a difficult year for many of our residents. “Our poorest residents have lost £20 Universal Credit top and our food banks are predicting a really busy period.
“Our nurses and teachers pay increase has been about two or three per cent. We understand the allowances have not been reviewed for 10 years.
“That is a failing of previous councils. We understand it was an independent panel.
“As stated being a good councillor is hard work and involves long hours. We also know that in all conscience we can’t vote for these rises.
“It’s the wrong time and the wrong circumstances. The increase is allowance for a cabinet member is 43 per cent.
“The total overall increase for a councillor with a cabinet post is 32 per cent bringing their total allowance to more than £25,000. That is approximately the average pay for a full time job in Bury.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Cristina Tegolo also spoke in favour of the amendment to stop the pay rises.
She said: “Wages are stagnant and the cost of petrol, basic food and household items are increasing at inflation busting rates. Ordinary people are going to food banks and are being forced into horrific and unsustainable levels of debts.
“What does this proposal do, it gives pay rises of up to 63 per cent in cash terms. How does this Labour council treat staff?
“In March council staff were insultingly given an average increase of 1.75 per cent A pay rise below inflation and doing nothing to help struggling families.
“Members who have any moral conscience to rise above their unethical peers and vote in favour of this amendment regardless of the colour of their party rosettes.”
None of the Labour or Conservative councillors who later voted to adopt the scheme spoke during the debate on the Radcliffe First amendment. The 10 councillors who opposed the pay rises were the eight Radcliffe First councillors, Liberal Democrat Cristina Tegolo and Independent Yvonne Wright.
The independent panel, who reviewed allowances late in 2021, concluded that Bury Council had ‘a low paying scheme both comparatively and in real terms’. They said ‘the generally low level of allowances had not been reviewed at all for more than 11 years’.
The report to councillors added: “The panel received anecdotal evidence that the current level of allowances was acting as a barrier to the recruitment of a wide range of candidates to stand for council.
“While the basic allowance and special responsibility allowances were never intended to reflect the ‘market value’ of the workload and responsibilities undertaken by members, they are intended to go a large way to recognising that there is a substantial time commitment and complexity to being an elected member that is largely unrecognised in their current remuneration.”
The three members of the independent panel appointed to look into allowances were chair Dr Declan Hall, an independent consultant specialising in members’ allowances and a former lecturer in local government and politics, Dr Andrew Roberts, a businessman and who is managing director of a local IT company and chair of Bury Business Leaders Group and John Thomson, a UNISON Bury branch secretary.