A pay rise for Birmingham councillors is a chance to ‘value’ their work, it has been claimed.
An Independent Remuneration Panel has recommended that the basic allowance for city council members be bumped up by four per cent from £16,592 to £17,227.
They also say those with ‘special responsibilities’ such as the leader and cabinet members should get another four per cent increase.
The proposals will go to the next full council debate after the Council Business Management Committee signed off on the recommendations earlier this week (Monday, March 18).
The independent panel took into account that there are now 101 councillors representing 69 wards, with some responsible for entire areas on their own, whereas prior to the election last year there were 120 councillors to 40 wards, with three members per area.
The increased accessibility through email and social media was also considered, along with cutbacks to the voluntary sector and organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Figures revealed that on average Birmingham councillors represent 11,259 citizens – double the number of their counterparts in other major cities including Manchester (5,682), Liverpool (5,461) and Wolverhampton (4,332).
It has been nine years since those in the second city saw their allowances go up, the committee was told.
Rose Poulter, chair of the panel, said: “We felt that for a number of reasons that at this point in time with the council changing its regime in terms of moving from three councillors per ward to two or one, there are fewer councillors representing the city, that there was an opportunity to take stock, stand back a little bit and reflect on how we value councillors and reflect and justify the work that they do.”
Cllr Mike Ward (Lib Dem, Sheldon), on the committee, said he did not even realise councillors got paid when he joined 28 years ago and it was just something he ‘wanted to do’.
But he added: “If we accept the premise that people, other than those who can afford to be a councillor, should be encouraged to do so then we have to make reasonable recompense.
“I think most people would be surprised to hear councillors only get £16,500 a year, obviously everything is relative and to somebody on benefits or a very low income that’s a lot of money, but equally there’s a lot of people that would recognise that £16,500 is not an amount of money that anyone is ever going to get rich on.”
While Cllr Deirdre Alden (Cons, Edgbaston ), shadow clean streets, waste and recycling chief, said being a member was a full-time job if you were in the cabinet or aspired to be in the cabinet.