Agenda item

IRP recommendations/Members Allowance Scheme review

To present to Council the conclusions and recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) in respect of its review of the current Members' Allowances Scheme.



Amanda Orchard, Chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP), presented the recommendations of the IRP review of Members’ Allowances. She stated that whilst she is no longer a resident of Fenland she does have strong links to the District and does have a soft spot for Fenland as she grew up and went to school in the area.


Amanda Orchard advised that the IRP met to conduct a statutory review of Member Allowances as requested by the Council, with a statutory review having to be conducted every four years. She advised that the IRP consisted of herself, Ged Dempsey and Nicky Blanning, all of whom are experienced remuneration panel members having worked on other local reviews in this area and she thanked both of them for their input into this review and the officers of the Council for their support.


Amanda Orchard thanked all the councillors who provided their views into this review, either in written format or via the virtual meetings. She stated that councillors were very candid in their thoughts and not only provided views around the allowances in the context of the financial climate but also regarding the time commitment required to effectively fulfil the role of District Councillor.


Amanda Orchard stated that she often gets asked what is the benefit of the IRP being convened to consider remuneration rather than it being set at a national level and she feels there is a couple of advantages as they can tailor the requirements specifically to the authority as every authority is different in terms of geography, financial position and Council make up and they look at all those factors to ensure the remuneration recommendations are fair and proportionate. She advised that all issues that are brought to the IRP are considered and discussed fully and the other difference to an IRP v national Government is that they listen and react accordingly.


Amanda Orchard stated that the IRP considered not only the impact of the Combined Authority on members, but the new Executive Advisory Committees as well as the matter of annual increases particularly given that public sector staff have been awarded lump sum annual increases in more recent years. She added that the IRP were keen to recommend a formula on which to calculate the Basic Allowance to ensure transparency and the Basic Allowance was then used as the basis for calculating Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA).


Amanda Orchard stated that the IRP recommended the introduction of new SRA in respect of the Combined Authority and whilst it is recognised that not all councillors who took part in the review were supportive of this change all recognised the significant extra responsibilities the Combined Authority roles required as well as additional time commitment and the benefits that being involved in the Combined Authority had for the District. She made the point that it was not a decision that the IRP took lightly as she can recall at the very beginning that the Combined Authority was not to cost constituent councils any more, however, the authority has evolved over time and has not quite panned out as people saw it initially but the IRP considered it fair and proportionate to allocate allowances to those that undertake that work which is considered to be quite substantial. She added that the IRP also made recommendations in respect of the basis for parental leave policy for members as a means of improving the diversity of councillors.


Amanda Orchard hoped that members consider the package of recommendations contained within the review to be useful in providing direction and clarity in the next few years with regard to remuneration of the Council.


Councillor Boden proposed the report and thanked the IRP for the hard work and thoughts that went into undertaking the review. He stated that the report produced by the IRP must be presented in full as it was written and within that report there are changes to be made that will mean that the remuneration will approach the average of the other five districts that make up Cambridgeshire and he feels that the structure and formula that has been set up will stand the test of time.


Councillor Mrs Laws seconded the report.


Councillor Mrs Davis recommended an amendment to the proposal as follows:

·         the Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee to receive an SRA of 0.4 x the Basic Allowance (£2,122).

·         the additional SRA for membership (or substitute membership) of the Planning Committee should be allowed to be claimed in addition to any other SRAs claimed (other than SRAs as Chairman or Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee).

·         the Chairman of the Planning Committee shall be deemed to be fulfilling an approved duty for the purposes of mileage allowance is, in his consideration of whether a proposed refusal under delegated powers should be referred to the full Planning Committee, he travels to the site of an application.

·         the Chairmen of the Culture, Arts and Heritage and Rural and Farming Executive Advisory Committees should each receive an SRA amounting to 0.35 x the Basic Allowance (£1,856 each).

·         amendments 1 and 2 to be backdated to 1 April 2023. Amendment 3 to be backdated by 3 months as per the current mileage policy. Amendment 4 to be backdated to the date of appointment as Chairman by the relevant committee.

She advised that the additional cost of these proposals is £7,365 plus any mileage claimed throughout the year.


Councillor Miss French seconded the amendment and the item was opened for debate. Members made comments as follows:

·         Councillor Booth stated he would be interested to know if these amendments were run past the IRP, he suspects it was not and if that is the case he cannot support the amendment as the whole point about having an IRP is that its independence sets the pay and when the Council starts to interfere it takes away from the whole principle of how these panels were created and set up. He added that he believes that there should probably be a national scale because otherwise you get these types of amendments being brought forward. Councillor Booth stated that he personally disagrees with allowances for the CPCA but he would be willing to support the findings of the independent review even if he disagrees with elements of it. He reiterated that he will not be supporting this amendment as members should not be setting this and they should be listening to the IRP.

·         Councillor Hoy stated that she agrees with Councillor Booth’s comments in relation to the CPCA because she remembers when the CPCA was formed it was said that it was going to be costing more money and there was going to be lots of allowances and every time there has been an IRP a number of members have said there should not be an allowance for the CPCA. However, she feels the problem now is that each constituent council has their own IRP and there is a situation now where every single authority board member is receiving an allowance except for Fenland and that is not very fair and the Leader does a really good job for Fenland on the CPCA as has been heard today as he has his finger on the pulse and is listening to what goes on there representing Fenland and what does it say about Fenland’s Leader if they are not remunerated as every other leader in the county is.

·         Councillor Tierney stated that he remembers when the CPCA was discussed and he did not vote for it, being the only person who did not, and the reason he did not vote for it is because he said what is going to happen is it will become more and more complex and eventually they will be wanting SRAs and this is exactly what has come about. He made the point that what Councillor Hoy has said is correct, it is not fair given the situation, he would personally prefer to do away with it entirely and then nobody would get an SRA but while that work has to be undertaken it is correct that the person who has to do that work is remunerated for it. Councillor Tierney advised that he wrote to the IRP stating that he does not think members should receive any rise as he always has because he thinks it shows good leadership to not take a rise when people are struggling but he will support the recommendations this time as you cannot forever say nobody has a rise as he always thinks that councillors deserve to be remunerated for what they do, councillors all work hard regardless of the party and they all do the best they can for people, the only thing for him is showing leadership in difficult times but those difficult times have been existence for a while, they effect members as well as everyone else so as long as members can carry on delivering good work and freeze Council Tax again then he is happy to support the proposals, but if the Council is unable to freeze Council Tax next year then he will not take it. He stated that he feels the amendments are very fair and astute, with the Planning Committee having much more additional responsibilities and this reflects this and of course the two committee chairmen should be remunerated in the same way as other committee chairmen are.

·         Councillor Boden stated that he fully respects the comments made by Councillor Booth and they are consistent with comments that he has made before and are a perfectly reasonable position to take but he accepts that members should be listening to the IRP and that is exactly what has happened. He made the point that due regard has been paid to the recommendations and it is agreed that the IRP have undertaken a very good job and that is why he was more than happy to propose the report but ultimately the responsibility does not lie with the IRP but with this Council and with any individual council as to what system of remuneration exists and members in this Council do know on a personal basis the amount of work that is put in by some individuals and which is involved in some particular positions. Councillor Boden expressed the view that the Vice-Chairman of the Planning Committee has to be prepared to stand in at any time at short notice and be able to chair meetings which can be highly contentious and very difficult so all the preparatory work has to be made that the Chairman puts in and the Vice-Chairman has had to step in on more than one occasion this year and it is realised by members that this position of Vice-Chairman does involve a significant amount of time and work, which generally applies to the Planning Committee which is why it is unfair to say that some members of the committee should not receive a relatively small SRA to recognise that members of this committee have to attend more meetings and spend more time researching for meetings than any other committee that the Council has. He added that the Chairman of Planning Committee does put in a considerable amount of time in fulfilling the duties that members of the Council gave him to examine those applications which are scheduled to be refused under delegated powers and to decide whether they are appropriate or not to go to the Planning Committee itself or whether they should be refused under delegated powers and on occasion in order to do this the Chairman says he needs to be able to see the site itself and he notes that the same has applied for Councillor Davis and given this it seems that the Council have asked him to do the job and are then saying that mileage will not be paid so that you can do it properly, which does not seem right so point 3 on the amendment seems acceptable. Councillor Boden expressed the view that it is unfair that there are two new committees where the Chairmen will not receive an SRA, where a significant amount of work has already been undertaken and there is more to come forward in the future so it seems appropriate to recognise the amount of work already undertaken and for what is expected.


Proposed by Councillor Davis, seconded by Councillor Miss French and AGREED that the amendments outlined above to the recommendations of the IRP be approved.


Members made comments on the original IRP recommendations as follows:

·         Councillor Count thanked the IRP who put together this package and he thinks they have done a very good job of putting this together. He is glad the amendment was approved, which he fully supported, and if these recommendations are approved today he does not think members should lose sight of where the Council is in the grand scheme of things as if approved a 3.5% cut is being made to the basic allowance compared to inflation and an additional 3-4% on last year so although an increase in actual basic allowance is proposed it is a reduction in real terms and there is nothing wrong with this as the UK at the moment is full of people who are not getting full inflationary increases and it would have been wrong for the Council to demand 6.7% and say this is what is expected as this is what inflation is and members do not want their roles to be any more diminished by inflation so it is right for members to take a cut but it is also right for there to be recognition of the value it has. Councillor Count expressed the view that if you look at the Council and the cost of this proposal compared to the way the Council has behaved in recent years by not putting up Council Tax and in fact reducing Council Tax he thinks the public should see the just reward that they are getting by investing some money in the people that are trying so hard on their behalf alongside officers to make a difference and to do the very best, which he feels is succeeding in Fenland. He questioned how some of the figures were arrived at in the IRP report, recognising that there is very robust thinking identified in the formula and it works very well to give the basic rate and this is based on a lot of information the IRP receives from councillors, other councils, legislation but one of the fundamental pieces of information that they get which he finds difficult is that they always get the previous recommendations so there is an element of the allowances used to do this so how much is it tinkered with or changed as a starting point rather than a fresh sheet of paper and that is why there is largely a very similar IRP report to the previous one. Councillor Count stated that whilst he does not disagree with that being used he thinks it is quite helpful that there are some areas where at the next IRP there could be some improvements to the way that it is approached, not on the basic formula but in terms of the SRAs because if you take the Leader’s SRAs, which is 3.5 times the basic allowance, with the basic allowance being based on 20 hours but the IRP are not saying that the Leader does another 70 hours work on top of this and what would happen if you worked in a large company everybody would do a basic week of 35 hours but as you move up through the tiers you get more responsibility, there are more people underneath and more management there has to be a greater skill set and that is where the 3.5 comes in and the 1.4 for the Chairmen and it would be useful in the future that it is defined how the IRP arrived at these figures, all of which he agrees with, so the public can see the rationale and not that the Leader does a 90 hour week, although he is pretty certain that he does. He referred to the CPCA and he has long been an advocate, ever since Cambridge City were the very first to introduce a members’ allowance, for those people that suffer with the CPCA and all the demands it puts on them and if he had his chance tomorrow, being heavily involved in its set up, he would still vote for it today because despite the extra money involved for the allowances, if you take March for example, with 12 million pounds being invested that would not have happened and by providing Fenland’s leadership with some extra resource they can dedicate extra time to the CPCA and will be able to fight as hard for this area as they already do without reward where other areas have been rewarded for years so he is very much in favour of this allowance and the overall position with the allowances.

·         Councillor Booth thanked the IRP members for the work they have undertaken and he supported the recommendations as they were unadulterated but the amendments have been approved. He referred to the financial analysis that Councillor Count mentioned saying effectively it is a cut but brought to members attention Section 16.1 where it gives a breakdown that the increases relate to a 8.9% increase, which is before the amendment that has just been agreed to and with that amendment the increase is at 11% on the allowances being paid out by this Council so to say it is a pay cut is not correct.

·         Councillor Boden thanked all that have spoken today as it is very important that all honest voices are heard and he reiterated his thanks to Amanda and to the IRP, having paid due regard not merely to the results of this report but also to the methodology used in order to reach it and he is very grateful for all of the work. He stated that very largely it has been accepted what is in the IRP, with there being four extremely specific amendments that have been agreed to none of which fundamentally change what the IRP suggested.


Proposed by Councillor Boden, seconded by Councillor Mrs Laws and AGREED

·         the conclusion and recommendation of the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) in respect of the review of the current Members’ Allowance Scheme, to come into effect from 1 April 2023, together with the amendments agreed;

·         authorises the Monitoring Officer to make such typographical amendments as are necessary to produce clean text copies of the Constitution; and

·         to consider an interim review in two year’s time with the suggested primary focus being the recently formed Executive Advisory Committees, with the next full review taking place no later than December 2027.


(Under Standing Order 2.3, this item was moved forward in the order of business)

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