Luton council agrees £1.6k increase in councillors' annual allowances after 15-year freeze

Luton town hall. Picture: Tony MargiocchiLuton town hall. Picture: Tony Margiocchi
Luton town hall. Picture: Tony Margiocchi
But two councillors opposed the increase

A bumper increase in their annual allowances has been supported by Luton borough councillors, after the amount has been frozen for almost 15 years.

An independent remuneration panel recommended the members’ allowances should rise significantly from £7,500 to £9,185 a year, at Luton Borough Council, from April 1.

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Two councillors were opposed to the payments going up so much at a time of a cost of living crisis nationally.

Alicia Borneo N’Guetta, who chairs the panel, told a council meeting: “The board has been deliberating the best approach for the remuneration of councillors in recent months.

“We recognise and appreciate all the time you spend volunteering in their communities to make it a better place,” she said. “We also met a few councillors to get their feedback and to engage with them about how much work is involved during their time as members of the local authority.

“The workload for councillors is significant, including reading officers’ reports, possessing extensive knowledge of local government, finance and funding, being accessible to constituents and conducting surgeries, as well as adequately preparing and asking relevant questions before meetings.

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“We’ve balanced the policy requirement of councillors to be voluntary against no member being left out of pocket while conducting their duties.

“Members’ allowances aren’t intended to attract candidates to council by paying a full market rate, but rather to encourage the desire to serve the local community and residents. That’s a fine motive for being a councillor,” she explained.

“There’s been a temporary freeze on councillors’ allowance for the council, which has been stagnant for the past 14 years. The recommendation is the councillor allowance rises to £9,815 per annum from £7,500 from April 1st.

“We also recommend allowances be adjusted in line with local government staff national joint committee (NJC) pay awards from April 1st each year, until another review is implemented.”

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Council leader and Labour Lewsey councillor Hazel Simmons thanked the independent panel, saying: “The allowances haven’t been increased since 2009.

“During those years covering austerity and the pandemic, members wouldn’t consider increasing their allowances. That’s meant our allowance is very much lower than other councils across the country.

“The panel has taken that into account in their review, which is a fair report and puts in place an annual adjustment. That will bring us in line with other local authorities over time.”

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn suggested the report was “very well considered”, adding: “It introduces something which is well overdue that we link allowances to average wages within the council.

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“But I believe it’s not the right time to increase members’ annual allowances to the extent the panel has suggested.”

Councillors agreed with six of the panel’s seven proposals for 2024/25, with just two votes against. The panel will be asked to review the other one, which was dropped as part of an amendment to its recommendations for the voting process.