THE leaders of a council facing having to make multi-million pound cutbacks to frontline services have defended a decision to grant councillors an inflation-busting rise in their allowances.

Members of North Yorkshire County Council have voted to devote £33,465 more of its budget annually to their allowances, increasing by 4.5 per cent basic allowance – to £9,635 – and allowances for councillors with special responsibilities – to £3,657 (on top of the basic figure).

A full meeting of the authority heard there was cross-party opposition to the £414 increase for its 72 members while the authority faced having to make “savage austerity cuts” as it works to cut £167m from its budget.

North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les said while in the past members had calculated their allowance rises, now it was recommended by the Independent Remuneration Panel.

He said: “If you have an independent panel you should follow their recommendation. They compare us to other councils and then make their recommendations. We don’t want to return to a situation where only the well-off can afford to be councillors.

“Although we have taken a decision today to increase allowances, it is up to each individual member if they want to accept that increase or not and I know there are a number of members that do not take full allowances from the councils that we serve.”

The authority’s deputy leader Councillor Gareth Dadd he wanted to see council members’ from “all walks of life” and increasing allowances would make it financially easier from a broader spectrum of people to serve the authority.

Members were told councillors’ allowances would represent less than 0.01 per cent of the total budget. A report to the meeting stated in December 2017 the Local Government Employers made an offer to most officers of a two per cent increase from last month and a further increase of two per cent next April.

Labour councillor Tony Randerson told the meeting the rise could not be justified. He said: “We can’t be free and easy with the public purse. Our residents are having to pay more for less. Being a councillor is not a job, it is a vocation and the justification for this rise being put forward by the panel is absurd – ‘to attract the right calibre of person’. Is this really why citizens put themselves up for election to public office? For remuneration? If so, they shouldn’t be a councillor.”

Conservative Keane Duncan said he “did not feel he could personally justify such a large increase”, while Independent councillor Lindsay Burr added: “A lot of people outside this council chamber haven’t been fortunate enough to receive a pay rise.”