City councillors in Birmingham are likely to take a lower than expected pay rise for the second year running.
In a move designed to show solidarity with the local authority workforce, allowances for the 120 council members are expected to rise in line with the nationally-negotiated local government pay award.
Details are not yet known, but next month’s full council meeting will be asked to approve a 1.9 per cent payment from April 1 which will be increased and backdated if the size of the national pay award is larger.
Last year, local government unions and employers settled for 2.4 per cent.
The decision is at odds with an independent remuneration panel appointed by the council to make recommendations about the payment of allowances. The panel suggested a final 2.1 per cent rise in line with the consumer prices index.
A decision to keep parity with staff wage rises is backed by the council’s controlling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.
The move was introduced last year with the intention of avoiding the bad publicity from a high wage rise for councillors when thousands of council employees faced salary cuts as a result of the single status pay and grading review.
A 1.9 per cent rise would give councillors a basic annual allowance of just under £16,000 – the highest of any local authority in the country.
Special responsibility allowances reflecting additional duties for cabinet members and committee chairmen, added to the basic salary, are paid to almost half council members.
The new annual payments include:
£70,000 for council leader Mike Whitby
£56,000 for deputy leader Paul Tilsley
£46,000 for cabinet members
£30,000 for scrutiny committee chairmen
The ten constituency committee chairmen, responsible for the council’s devolved services, receive what the panel describes as a “modest” increase, lifting their salary to £20,000.
The increases move the council away from the formula two years ago, which saw allowances rise in line with average Midlands earnings.
Such a formula would have increased councillors’ salaries between four and five per cent.
The remuneration panel – six members of the public and a trade union representative – says in its annual report the duties of a councillor can be fulfilled by working for three days a week, despite pressure on members to do more.
The report adds: “The panel accepts there continue to be many demands on the backbench councillor and the ratio of electorate per councillor remains high especially in the more deprived inner city wards. On the evidence received, the panel concludes there has been no visible increase or decrease in workloads over the past 12 months, although the time required to undertake the role remains a critical factor.”
Panel members said they remained committed to the “promotion of a healthy democracy” by the removal of financial disadvantage as a barrier to people standing for election or serving as councillors. Elected members who took on significant additional responsibilities often did so to the detriment of their careers outside of the council, the report added.
Council chief legal officer Mirza Ahmad said: “The panel continues to receive concerns from councillors about the demands placed on their time to carry out their elected roles.”