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Allowance rules 'risk putting people off senior roles', West Norfolk Council opposition leader warns

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Current rules on allowance payments are unreasonable and risk putting people off seeking senior positions, the leader of West Norfolk Council’s opposition has claimed.

A special full council meeting is now set to take place next week after the deadlock on the issue continued at a cabinet session on Tuesday.

Last month, the cabinet rejected proposals from an independent panel, who had recommended raising all councillors’ basic allowances by nearly £200 a year from the present £6,162.

King's Court. Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk.. (40512070)
King's Court. Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk.. (40512070)

The panel also called for opposition group leaders to receive increased special allowances of £175 for each of their members.

But the cabinet approved a plan to raise allowances only in line with officers’ pay award – a decision which was subsequently challenged at a corporate performance panel session earlier this month.

Terry Parish, the leader of the larger opposition independent group, told the meeting it was reasonable that the workload of opposition leaders should be recognised in the allowance system in the same way that the work of cabinet members and committee chairmen is.

Terry Parish (54521153)
Terry Parish (54521153)

He repeated his pledge not to accept any increased allowance offered to him personally, insisting that his aim was to establish a principle to be applied in the future.

He said: “For all I know, I certainly won’t be leader of any opposition group [from 2023-24] but somebody will be and I don’t think it is reasonable to expect people to walk into the situation we have now.

“It may also dissuade people from becoming chairs of opposition groups if they feel the amount of time they spend isn’t adequately recompensed.”

But council leader Stuart Dark told the meeting that the authority’s monitoring officer had recommended no change to the current payments, except for the inflationary rise in line with the staff pay award for the current 2021-22 financial year.

West Norfolk Council leader Stuart Dark at his desk (55505487)
West Norfolk Council leader Stuart Dark at his desk (55505487)

His predecessor, Brian Long, conceded there may be a need for the issue to be considered again during the next allowance review.

But he added: “We don’t get an allowance for a political position.”

And development portfolio holder Richard Blunt suggested the issue did not need to be discussed at the present time.

The special council meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday, March 23, at 4.30pm in Lynn Town Hall.

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