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Councillors could ditch rule that docks a month of their allowance if they miss more than a quarter of meetings

Councillors could ditch a move to withhold their allowances if they fail to attend three quarters of the meetings they should.

Lichfield District Council House

Lichfield District Council House

A meeting of Lichfield District Council will make a final decision on plans to end the practice of withholding the 12th month where members don’t turn up to at least 75% of scheduled meetings.

A report examining proposals for the revised constitution of the local authority has suggested that the recommendation – made by an independent remuneration panel – should end.

The move would mean councillors would pick up their basic allowance of £4,090, regardless of the number of sessions they actually attended.

At present, the council’s guidance on members allowances states: “The meetings that count against a member’s attendance record are those which are used by the council in its publication of members’ attendance summary on its website, plus all scheduled Planning and Safeguarding Member training sessions for each municipal year.

“If a member has a valid reason for missing a meeting, such as illness, paternity/maternity leave or other calamitous life events, then an exemption should be provided for, by the determination of the monitoring officer.”

Cllr Christopher Spruce

Cllr Christopher Spruce

Cllr Christopher Spruce, Cabinet member for finance and democratic services, said the policy had created more issues than it had solved.

“Whilst the scheme was introduced to drive up attendance, the council’s strategic overview and scrutiny committee found that an unintended consequence is that it unfairly penalises members who take on the most responsibility,” he said. “This is because they could be required to attend significantly more meetings than councillors who sit on fewer committees.

“While members who are hospitalised, have medical conditions or caring duties are given dispensation under the current scheme, members of the committee also felt it penalises those councillors who may be unable to attend meetings because they are unwell, on holiday or have personal commitments.

“The committee members also noted that the scheme has also taken significant officer time to administer.

“No decision has been made and councillors will decide on the removal of the scheme at the annual council meeting on May 15.”

Labour opposition group leader, Cllr Sue Woodward, said that while the scheme had not worked as planned, she said some councillors had “abused” the system.

“Although well-intended, this just hasn’t worked,” she said. “I believe that, in some cases, requests for dispensation have been abused and mask the true attendance figures, let alone the level of engagement at the meetings themselves including actually reading the council reports.

“Then there was the infamous case of the councillor who said he wouldn’t be attending at all during the last month of the year as he’d lost his month’s allowance.

“Of course there are times when councillors have illness or other circumstances to deal with and they can apply for dispensation in the proper, open manner that they always have. This scheme has allowed councillors to apply for dispensation with no visibility to their electors or other council members and left officers having to make the difficult judgements about whether to allow it or not.

“For me, the bottom line is that once a councillor is elected – whether they expected to be or not – they have a duty to their electors and to the council as a whole to do the job conscientiously or stand down.

“I hope that all those intending to stand next year will honour this most basic commitment.”

Withholding the 12th month also affects those members who get an additional special responsibility allowance (SRA).

Figures from Lichfield District Council show that basic councillor allowances totalled £189,491.75 during the 2016/17 period, while SRAs accounted for an additional £92,214.77 during the same period.

At present, SRA payments on top of the basic allowance include:

  • Leader of the council: £12,270
  • Deputy leader: £7,362
  • Leader of the principal minority group: £2,800
  • Deputy leader of the principal minority group: £700
  • Other Cabinet members: £6,749
  • Chairman of the council: £2,800
  • Vice-chairman of the council: £700
  • Chairmen of overview and scrutiny committees: £2,454
  • Vice-chairmen of overview and scrutiny committees: £614
  • Chairman of audit committee: £1,534
  • Chairman of employment committee: £1,543
  • Chairman of standards committee: £50 per meeting
  • Chairman of planning committee: £6,135
  • Vice-chairman of planning committee: £1,543
  • Chairman of regulatory and licensing committee: £2,454
  • Vice-chairman of of regulatory and licensing committee: £614
  • Chairman of parish forum: £50 per meeting

The meeting of Lichfield District Council will also hear a recommendation that vice-chairs of the employment committee and the audit committee should also receive an SRA equivalent to 25% of the chairman’s allowance.

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.

4 Comments

  1. Darryl

    9th May, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    There’s little good to say here. If this is how the council approach their roles then it’s impossible not to equate this with other decisions the council makes.

    There will be numerous hourly paid staff, who are more than aware that if they fail to turn up for work, they don’t get paid, whether or not they have a “legitimate excuse.”

    Councillors need to do some deep soul searching. When they bang-on about restrictive budgets and the continuing reduction in central government funding, introducing brown bin charging etc. and then they bemoan an incentive payment that is removed if they don’t turn up, I would suggest their priorities have become skewed, if not completely distorted.

  2. AgitatorofPeople

    10th May, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    Why have these people even considered becoming councillors, or continue to do so? and who was part of the “independent remuneration panel” the whole thing stinks, over £200,000 of our local council tax spent on these limp and lacklustre money sponges.
    A proposal for the revised constitution should include doing away with allowing dual roles on both Staffordshire and Lichfield Councils, to ensure that councillors are present and capable of focussing on the one job are they were elected for.
    If they really wanted an independent view, then it would be from a lottery picked panel of constituents, but that would be asking too much wouldn’t it.

  3. Nellygb

    10th May, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    Spot on Darryl I suppose it is just too easy a solution to pay them for meetings they actually turn up to. This added to the Burntwood councillor now living best part of 200 miles away insisting she can represent her ward in the same way as when she actually lived in the ward brings to mind “snouts in the trough” though the other breed renowned for such actions are more honourable.

    Never forget everyone “we are all in this together”

  4. Concerned Citizen

    11th May, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Agitator – I think you will find the the Independent Remuneration Panel includes a consultant who is paid thousands of £££s by LDC….very independent, don’t you think?