York councillors voted to approve significant increases to their allowances after a debate which got very heated tonight.
All but three of those members at the full council meeting voted in favour of accepting the Independent Remuneration Panel’s recommendations.
As we reported on Sunday, this will see basic councillor allowances increase from £9,198 to £10,371, a rise of 12.75%.
And special responsibility allowances will be hiked by between 20% and 50%.
The vote – in which Tory councillors Paul Doughty and Martin Rowley were joined by independent Mark Warters in voting against the pay rises – followed a hot-tempered interchange.
Opposition to the recommended allowance increases was led by Cllr Warters, who represents Osbaldwick.
He told the chamber that all the councillors knew the rates of pay when they stood for election in May, and the likely demand on their time.
He suggested that if they did vote for the rise, they deferred it till after the next elections, otherwise it would appear to be ‘avaricious behaviour’. He said:
Nowt changes. It’s exactly the same disgraceful situation as we had four years ago except there’s some new snouts jostling for position in a much larger trough…
I am disgusted. I’m ashamed to be part of this lot that’s going forward with this.
Conservative Group leader Paul Doughty said councillors were voting themselves “a very lucrative early Christmas present”.
“The Lib Dem leader of the council gets to vote himself in excess of an extra £6,000 per year tonight,” he said. “And some committee chairs will see their allowances jump 50% for, in some cases, meeting less than once a month.
“How can we reconcile this with average pay increases for city residents – and in particular, regular grade staff employed by the council – who’ve had modest increments? You can’t.”
Cllr Doughty has advised officers that he and Cllr Rowley will not be accepting the increased allowances during this four-year administration – asking them to divert the equivalent money towards pot hole repairs.
Cllr Kallum Taylor (Labour, Holgate) said it was “galling” that Cllr Doughty “has been lording it up in the media with quite frankly crocodile tears about how terrible and disgraceful this is”.
He said: “Firstly, if my snout is in the trough, I’m in the wrong bloody trough quite frankly. And secondly, and this is a more important point, I think workloads have gone up.
“I’ve only been a councillor for about a year and a half and even in that short time workloads shot up.”
Social media had something to do with it, he said, adding:
But another thing that’s got a lot to do with it is councillors acting as the last line of defence to the types of policies that their party has been putting on this country since 2010.
So I tell you what – if you don’t like the increase in the workload, have a word with your party Cllr Doughty.
And you can shove your media coverage where the sun don’t shine.
A new member of the council, and one who is under 30, Cllr Edward Pearson (Liberal Democrat, Haxby and Wigginton) said many young councillors were leaving, and others were choosing not to stand. The average age of a councillor is 59.
“By increasing members allowances it will go some way to once again help attract a more diverse range of people to the role, and it will provide them with more financial security to undertake that role,” he said.
Cllr Rosie Baker (Green Party, Micklegate) said her member’s allowance was her main source of income.
“I’m a single parent. I’m currently living in one room of a house of a friend whilst I possibly laughably try to get on the housing ladder or end up in failing that suffering private renting.”
Despite this she chose to be a full-time available councillor so she could serve residents, including elderly people, those in dementia care homes, and young people on the Youth Climate Strikes – and she wanted to “persuade more parents to do this job”.
And long-serving councillor Cllr John Galvin (Independent, Bishopthorpe) said no one in his ward had ever commented on his rate of pay.
He said: “It’s appalling some of the comments that have been made in this room tonight. I ain’t got a nose in the trough.
“I earn my allowance and I think 99% of councillors members through this land earn their allowance.”