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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sunderland council freezes councillors’ pay amidst calls for reduction

Sunderland councillors’ pay for the coming year has been frozen, in line with an independent recommendation

Sunderland councillors’ pay for the coming year will be frozen once again, in line with an independent recommendation.

Every financial year, Sunderland City Council is required to renew the members’ allowances scheme and to consider the recommendations of an independent panel.

The latest recommendation from Sunderland’s ‘Independent Remuneration Panel’ (IRP) suggested the local authority “continue with the terms of its current scheme for the 2024/2025 year”.

A report noted this was due to the recent recruitment of three new members to the pool from which panels are convened, who therefore need to “become familiar” with the council’s governance and councillor responsibilities before recommending any amendments.

The IRP also recommended a “detailed review be held during 2024/2025” to consider any amendments to the scheme and potential suggestions for the following year.

At the latest authority-wide meeting of the city council the members’ allowances scheme for 2024/2025, which includes a freeze in all allowances, was approved by councillors.

This means the annual basic allowance, which is available to all 75 city councillors, will remain at £8,369.

Cllr Graeme Miller. Image: Sunderland Council

City council leader, councillor Graeme Miller, noted the council has now “not raised allowances for 12 years”.

At the meeting, Liberal Democrat group leader councillor Paul Edgeworth had proposed an amendment which would have seen the basic allowance reduced by five per cent to £7,951.

It also featured a “suite of changes” including various reductions in special responsibility allowances (SRAs), such as those for the leader, deputy leader, cabinet secretary, cabinet members and committee chairs.

Other alterations would have included the deletion of SRAs for deputy cabinet members, vice chairs, the mayor and deputy mayor.

Cllr Paul Edgeworth. Image: Sunderland Council

Cllr Edgeworth said: “I do think we need to take this opportunity to once again make sure that residents see that councillors are sharing the burden of cuts and council tax hikes that this council is imposing on them.

“That’s why we’re moving again a sensible package of measures to reduce the cost of special responsibility allowances to show that willing.”

Labour’s Cllr Miller responded by noting the council has already set their budget for 2024/25 at the previous month’s meeting based on the current allowance levels and his group supports the scheme recommended by the IRP.

He said: “We’ve, as a council, felt the pain and not raised allowances for 12 years, whilst everybody else has had some sort of pay increase in that period, councillors have not.

“Even though the Independent Remuneration Panel has several times suggested that we increase the allowances, because there was the cost of living crisis and it was very acute, this chamber has said no to it.”

He also claimed the Liberal Democrat amendment was “more to do with the 2 May [the date of the local elections]”.

Cllr Antony Mullen. Image: Sunderland Council

The amendment was ultimately defeated, with 22 councillors voting in favour and 45 against.

Cllr Antony Mullen, Conservative group leader on the council, added given the circumstances around the IRP he hopes they “convene as soon as they possibly can rather than in line with the normal timetable” in order to make recommendations to the council.

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