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Norfolk County Council backs plan to extend allowances

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Plans to increase the number of county councillors who receive special allowances have been agreed, despite criticism from opponents.

The change, which was agreed at a Norfolk County Council meeting on Monday, means a further two members will now be eligible for special responsibility allowances (SRA).

It comes at a time when County Hall is trying to make £39m in savings.

Norfolk County Council's headquarters, where calls for DIY waste recycling charges to be scrapped are set to be debated next week (53200948)
Norfolk County Council's headquarters, where calls for DIY waste recycling charges to be scrapped are set to be debated next week (53200948)

While county councillors do not receive salaries, they are entitled to allowances – with the basic rate currently set at £10,924.

Councillors with special responsibilities, such as the leader, cabinet members, and leader of the opposition, are entitled to SRAs. Currently around 30 people receive these payments, with the amount varying depending on the role.

Under the new plans, the allowances will also be paid to those in the newly-created roles of deputy cabinet members for children’s services and adult social services. Both posts will receive around £9,000 a year.

An independent panel had previously said it was too early to properly assess the two roles, and recommended a future panel should look into the total numbers receiving SRAs.

However, it did recommend the two posts be covered by the payments, which should be backdated to last May.

It also recommended:

Keeping the allowance for most positions at the current level

Setting deputy cabinet members pay at 20pc of leader’s allowance

Considering the adoption of a policy to support parental leave for councillors

That the council should clarify when payments are made if a councillor leaves their post.

At the meeting, opposition councillors asked for the recommendations to be split and voted on individually but this was rejected by the chairwoman, Penny Carpenter.

The vote was approved by 43 to 11, with 10 abstentions.

Lib Dem Lucy Shires said she was “delighted” the council was supporting parental leave but said it felt like they were being “held hostage” to accepting all the recommendations.

Labour group leader, Steve Morphew, said that while he was broadly in support of the recommendations he rejected the need for the new deputy cabinet roles while the council needs to make at least £39m of savings.

“We have been arguing that the levels are too high.

“There have been excessive increases and we would prefer to see them cut or at least frozen,” he said.

Bill Borrett, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “I do think when you start to cheapen allowances you reflect badly on all members.

“Members give up their time tirelessly to represent people who elect them.”

Mr Borrett said being a cabinet member was not a “gravy train”.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Morphew said he was pleased the allowances had been frozen but they should have been cut.

He said it was “insensitive” at a time when cuts were needed to add to extra cost on top.

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