Sunderland Labour Group will turn down a proposed pay rise for all council members, with the basic allowance set to remain unchanged for a ninth consecutive year.
The city’s ruling party has said that it will block a recommended 12pc increase in councillors’ basic allowance, put forward by an Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) based on allowances set by comparable councils in the UK.
Council leader, Councillor Graeme Miller, said that the council had already remodelled its Special Responsibilities Allowances, scrapping 14 posts to run more efficiently, and that a move to increase remuneration, during a time when families across the city are facing such financial hardship, exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, would be ‘utterly wrong’.
He said: “The Remuneration Panel reviewed the basic allowances levels that are paid to all local councillors – across the political spectrum – as part of a remodelling programme that we started at the end of 2019, that saw us cut the number of Special Responsibility Allowances by 14. Their findings are that Sunderland councillors would require a 12pc increase in allowances to bring them in line with their peers elsewhere in the country.
“We will be discussing the IRP’s recommendations at our Cabinet meeting next week. However, so there is absolutely no doubt, during a time when residents face such hardship and when every penny has to be channelled into frontline services, these proposals will be rejected by the Labour Group and not recommended to full council.”
Councillor Miller said the decision to reject the proposals was one he expected would be unanimously supported by his party, and indeed one he hoped other political parties would also back.
“A great many Labour Group councillors have been in touch and absolutely support the Cabinet in rejecting the recommendations set out in the report. It’s important that we understood, though our allowances remodelling programme, where we fit compared to other councils, and though the IRP has absolutely done its job diligently and its findings are thorough and reflect the reality – that Sunderland’s councillor allowances are low compared with similar sized councils – it cannot be right that at a time of such crisis, we increase allowances.”
He added: “What I am absolutely clear about is that this decision is no reflection of the role that local councillors play. We absolutely recognise the huge value that members can bring to their community – something that I think has come to the fore more than ever in recent months – but we stand in solidarity with residents, many of whom have been heavily impacted by this crisis.”