Wakefield councillors turn down proposed £300 a year raise

Councillors in Wakefield have rejected an increase to their paid allowance, in a move they say will save the public purse £32,000.

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 12:30 pm

That would have allowed councillors to claim an extra £300 a year each, though those in senior positions would have earned more.

The cash saved will go towards buying laptops for local schoolchildren who suffer from so-called digital poverty and don't have adequate internet access for their studies.

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An independent panel had recommended the increase.

Councillors from all three major parties unanimously voted against the proposed increase at a full council meeting on Wednesday.

But opposition members suggested more should be done to make the role of a councillor more attractive to younger working people.

The allowance is paid to councillors to compensate for time off work.

Conservative group leader Nadeem Ahmed called for virtual council meetings to be continued after the coronavirus pandemic ends.

Wakefield County Hall

He said: "We have to change our working practices for the world we're living in.

"Some people who are carers for elderly people, children and have different working practices aren't able to become elected councillors.

"It's important moving forward that we look at how council meetings are held in the future.

"I remember having to travel all the way from Leeds to Sheffield during the working day for a meeting that lasted 20 minutes. That meeting could have been held remotely.

Wakefield Conservative group leader Nadeem Ahmed

"There's things we can do to encourage young people into politics.

"Having a diverse range of ages, ideas and opinions adds to democracy."

The council's sole Liberal Democrat member, Tom Gordon, said he'd had to give up a full-time job at a university to enable him to do the job of a councillor.

He said: "In future if we are going to bump up remuneration for our duties, then we need to identify areas where we can save to fund that, rather than just accept what's put forward in front of us.

"The average age of a councillor across the country is 60.

"We need to look at ways we can make the council chamber more accessible."

In response, Labour front bench councillor Michael Graham said: "We want to see as many different people from all different backgrounds and all walks of life in the council chamber.

"In order to do that we do need to be remunerated and have that pay to match up to the time missed at work.

"This year we want to stand in solidarity with those public sector workers who aren't having their pay increased.

"But we do agree we need to have that diversity in the council chamber."

Local Democracy Reporting Service