St Albans District councillors reject pay hike

St Albans City & District Council

St Albans City & District Council - Credit: Archant

Councillors’ basic allowances have been frozen for the consecutive fifth year after members of St Albans district council voted not to give themselves a pay rise.

At last week’s full council it was decided councillors’ basic allowance and special responsibilities allowances (SRAs) would not be increased by one per cent for 2014/15, despite the recommendations being put forward by the authority’s Independent Remuneration Panel.

While the Liberal Democrat group said they supported the panel’s proposal as a “matter of principle”, the majority of other councillors were against the move.

Labour’s deputy group leader Cllr Jacob Quagliozzi said he would not be able to “look my residents in the eyes” if his basic allowance was raised from the current level of £5,535 per year.

Cllr Daniel Chicester-Miles, who is the council’s portfolio holder for environment, also said he felt “uneasy” about the plans particularly as councillors in St Albans were paid one of the highest amounts of basic allowances in the county.

During the lengthy debate, a spotlight was also shone on SRAs, which are paid on top of basic allowances to the council leader and councillors who chair certain committees or hold a cabinet post.

Cllr Eileen Harris pointed out some chairs of committees that meet quarterly are paid around £3,000, which works out at £750 per meeting: “There is no explanation as to why chairs of committees whether they meet 17 times a year of four times a year get virtually the same rate.”

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Cllr Harris added: “I would not accept as a quarterly chair £3,000 when you think you get £5,500 for doing everything and suddenly you do a meeting every month and you get £3,000 extra.

“It is bizarre and it would not happen anywhere else and it should not happen here.”

Cllr Dean Russell, who is paid £2,965 for chairing the Health and Wellbeing Partnership which meets four times a year, defended his role saying a lot of work was done between meetings.

He said: “I want to make sure the message does not go out to the public that because you chair a panel that does not meet so regularly that therefore your nose is in the trough and you are taking more funds than one deserves.

“If you do the job well the meeting should be a point where things come together to be discussed not a time when that is the only period you are involved.”