Call for £3,500 councillor pay rise to be delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic

A £3,500 pay rise for Bath and North East Somerset councillors should be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic, the leading group has said.

The Guildhall in Bath

An independent panel reviewed the basic allowances paid to all 59 councillors and said it was vital they are paid appropriately to attract more diverse candidates.

Its recommendation to increase the sum incrementally from £7,993 to £11,555 by 2025/26 will be voted on next week but Liberal Democrats will propose a year-long delay before any changes are made.

Councillor Manda Rigby said: “The Lib Dems are clear that now is not the right time to increase Councillors’ basic allowances, given the severe impact of coronavirus on the Bath and North East Somerset community.

“We recognise that many local residents and businesses are struggling following the multiple lockdowns. Helping the local economic recovery is one of our top priorities as a council.

“That’s why the Lib Dems will propose delaying implementing the recommendation to increase basic allowances for a year. The report already proposed a freeze for chairs and cabinet members’ allowances.

“We do accept the need for the review and the rationale behind the panel’s recommendations. This work had been pending for some years and was initiated before the pandemic hit.

“In the long term, we need to ensure allowances are set at a fair level. This is important if we want to attract a diverse group of local people to stand as councillors in Bath and North East Somerset.”

The panel surveyed councillors and 62 per cent said the current basic allowance was not enough because it failed to reflect the amount of work involved or compensate for lost earnings, and was insufficient to attract candidates to reflect the local population.

On average councillors dedicate 22 hours a week to council work and are effectively on duty all year round – the hourly rate is as little as £7 per hour.

An increase to £11,555 would be closer to other comparable authorities but still behind the £14,330 paid to Bristol councillors.

Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter

Bath Echo