Councillors' allowance increase rejected as authority cuts tens of millions from its budget

Darlington and Stockton Times: A proposal to increase councillors' allowances by one per cent was rejected as the council faces stark choices over service cuts A proposal to increase councillors' allowances by one per cent was rejected as the council faces stark choices over service cuts

NORTH Yorkshire councillors have voted against increasing their allowance as they grapple within “unprecedented” cuts to services worth £74m.

The county council has already set in motion £94m of spending cuts – about £20m of which will take effect from April.

Yesterday, at its quarterly meeting, the council approved a recommendation from its executive to slice a further £74m from its budget. It also rubber-stamped a decision to increase its council tax by 1.99 per cent.

The county council is facing stark choices over where to cut services. Since 2011 it has looked to make savings of about £170m, amounting to a reduction in its spending of 34 per cent.

Amongst the proposals approved today was a review of libraries - encouraging more community ownership and closing those which are not taken over by residents.

Some children’s centres are also likely to be closed, although frontline work is likely to be protected. Reducing winter maintenance budgets by £750,000 will also be looked at, as will the possibility of handing over waste recycling centres over to commercial operators.

Within minutes of the drastic savings being ratified, councillors were asked to vote on a recommendation that would give them a one per cent increase in the Basic Allowance and an additional one per cent increase in Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA).

The recommendation had been made by the council’s independent panel on members’ remunerations, which advised the increase to bring it in line with pay awards made nationally.

Two amendments to the proposal were put forward – one to cut councillors’ allowances by 13 per cent and another to freeze their allowance at its existing level. Councillors voted to freeze their income.

Ryedale Councillor Jon Clark, who proposed councillors take a pay cut, argued against the allowance increase, telling the meeting: “Some people are having their bus services removed.

"What about the households that are struggling to keep their youngsters in education from 16 to 19 who will have several hundred pounds a year in extra travel costs? Try telling them it’s just a one per cent increase – they’re on the same money as last year.”

Coun Elizabeth Casling said the council needed a more diverse selection of people and reducing the allowance would discourage this.

Council Leader John Weighell, who proposed to freeze the allowance, said: “I take on point Mrs Casling’s point. If you reduce allowances you end up with a council like it was about 40 years ago, when it was full of people who could simply afford to be there.”

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