Hackney councillors condemn ‘invidious’ practice of allowances voting

PUBLISHED: 16:03 28 October 2020 | UPDATED: 18:00 28 October 2020

Hackney Town Hall entrance. Picture: Hackney Council

Hackney Town Hall entrance. Picture: Hackney Council

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Hackney councillors have called on the government to alter arrangements which see them vote on their own allowances.

Unlike MPs, whose salaries are set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, councillors vote on reports and recommendations from an independent remuneration panel responsible for reviewing members’ allowances.

In Hackney’s case, this is provided by London Councils and chaired by former civil servant Sir Rodney Brooke.

READ MORE: Hackney Council’s Tory chief set for £8,000 allowance increase as leader of sole opposition

Councillors voted to accept an increase of allowances by 2.75 per cent in line with the national pay settlement for local government officers, but Conservative councillors Harvey Odze and Simche Steinberger abstained from voting.

Cllr Odze said: “I find it invidious that the government forces us to vote on our own allowances. It should be nothing to do with the council. It should be totally independent and agreed by an outside body, not by the council.

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“The only input the council should have is if it is feasible within the budget. I think we should make representations to the government accordingly.”

He also described excluding councillors from the local government pension scheme as a “stupid decision”.

Each Hackney councillor is currently entitled to a basic allowance of just over £11,000/yr, designed to give elected representatives payments in recognition of committing to attending council meetings and to meet with officers and constituents.

It also covers costs, such as phone bills, with extra allowances for special responsibilities.

The chair of the planning committee, for example, receives just under £18,000/yr as a special responsibility allowance (SRA), with members of the mayor’s cabinet receiving £36,645/yr and the two deputy mayors receiving £43,475/yr SRA.

The only member of the council who receives neither a basic allowance or SRA is Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville, who receives an annual allowance of £85,375/yr. The full budget for the members allowance scheme for 2020/21 with the uplift included is £1.387m.

Mayor Glanville said at the meeting: “I echo Cllr Odze. I don’t think any of us find it easy looking at this and voting on our own allowances.”

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