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Saturday, February 24, 2024

74% of Kirklees councillors agree to allowance cuts amidst financial struggles

Seventy-four percent of Kirklees councillors have agreed to take a five percent cut to their allowances.

Cllr Scott ruffled a few feathers shortly after becoming leader of the council, after instigating a review of councillors’ allowances to cut costs at a time when the council needs to make a £47m saving to balance its books. This resulted in all 69 elected members being asked to take a five percent cut to their allowances. On top of this, Cllr Scott requested that members opt out of a previously scheduled pay increase.

Initially, councillors had been asked to declare whether they intended to reduce their allowances individually and publicly at a Full Council meeting in September. This caused outrage, especially among some members of Kirklees’ Conservative group, with Group Leader Cllr David Hall calling the move “unforgivably crass” as it would single out those who couldn’t afford to take the financial hit.

In what appeared to be a last-minute u-turn, councillors were asked to instead declare whether they accepted the decrease in allowance by email, with the results to be made public at a later date.

Kirklees Council says that 51 out of 69 councillors have agreed to take a full five percent off their allowances. It is unclear if the Leader of the Council is included in the totals as Cllr Scott took a 10 percent reduction upon taking office. A group-by-group breakdown is as follows:

Labour: 37 out of 38

Conservatives: five out of 18

Liberal Democrats: six out of eight

Greens: three out of three

Independent: 0 out of two

Each of Kirklees’ 69 councillors is entitled to a basic allowance of £15,080, with additional payments, or ‘Special Responsibility Allowances’ for those with extra responsibilities.

Shortly after coming into the post as Leader of the Council, Cllr Scott took an immediate 10 percent cut to her new £27,210 Leader’s allowance and the nine cabinet members agreed to knock five percent off their £13,709 allowances.

At the time, strong opinions were voiced across the council, and the Leader of the Lib Dem group spoke of the “problematic history” of the councillors’ allowances. He also highlighted that only three cabinet members would experience a cut in real terms due to the remainder receiving new, elevated allowances upon taking up their posts.

Other councillors called for drastic action, with Cllr Charles Greaves (Holme Valley North, Independent) saying that a reduction in the number of councillors would see far more cash saved. Elsewhere, Leader of the Green Group, Cllr Andrew Cooper said it would’ve saved officer time if all councillors with extra responsibilities took a five percent cut so energy could be put into addressing the council’s financial predicament.

Following the release of the figures, Cllr Scott said: “We are pleased with the support shown by our councillors in taking this step towards fiscal responsibility and solidarity within our community during these challenging times.

“Their willingness to make personal sacrifices reflects our commitment to prioritising the needs of the people we serve above all else.

“As for those who chose not to participate in the reduction, we respect their individual decisions. We understand that each councillor may have their own considerations and circumstances to take into account.

“However, we did encourage everyone to reflect on the spirit of unity and shared sacrifice.”

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