09:44AM, Friday 28 August 2020
An opposition councillor has called for a rethink over the way some allowances are handed out to Royal Borough members.
Following the publication of councillors’ allowances for 2019/20 at the end of July, Cllr Neil Knowles (Ind, Old Windsor) has suggested a ‘reappraisal’ may be needed to help the borough recover from the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Each councillor in the Royal Borough receives a basic allowance of £8,143 per year, which is in recognition of the time members spend on council work and also covers minor expenses.
Some members also receive additional special responsibility allowances relating to additional posts they hold within the council.
The leader, the mayor, cabinet members and chairs of some committees and panels are among those entitled to these extra allowances.
The highest-paid member of the council for 2019/20 was the leader, Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams), who received £24,643, followed by Cllr David Coppinger (Con, Bray), who received £21,741.
In total, £543,087 was paid to councillors during the last financial year.
Speaking to the Express on Wednesday, Cllr Knowles was critical of the way some allowances were paid out, when the council and nation have been struggling financially.
He said: “The basic allowance enables some people to be councillors, it offsets some of their time to do council work. It’s a fair amount for what councillors do.
“But there has to be a reappraisal on the concept of special responsibility.
“Everyone in a committee is doing the same amount of preliminary research. I am on the planning committee, and before each meeting there is a massive amount of work. So why does the chairman get all the money?”
The councillors’ allowances are not determined by the council, but by an independent remuneration panel, which is made up of three people appointed by the council.
In response to Cllr Knowles’ views, Cllr Johnson said: “Councillors’ allowances have been frozen for a considerable number of years, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, in light of the wider budgetary pressures facing the council and the need to ensure that every penny is spent on frontline services.
“In terms of additional allowances for committee chairs, I am confident that the current system is working well and reflects the extra workload and responsibilities associated with chairing the meetings, setting the agenda and holding myself and my cabinet to account.”
Over the last financial year, the chairs of the Maidenhead, Windsor and Borough-wide Development Management Panels received special responsibility allowances.
Cllr John Bowden (Con, Eton and Castle), who was chair of the Borough-wide development management panel in 2019/20, received £5,253 in special responsibility allowances for the role, even though it did not meet a single time during 2019/20.
When asked by the Express why the panel was never held, he said: “There were no items to put on it, that was all. There were no major planning applications that had gone into it.
“I was available for it (the panel) and that was that.”
On whether he would return the allowances, he said: “I can understand where you are coming from. I would have to refer to the leader.”
A council spokesman said: “The independent renumeration panel (IRP) do not determine member allowances, but they review the member allowance scheme and make recommendations to members, before discussing at full council.
“A full review of the current Members’ Allowances Scheme is currently underway, with a report anticipated at the scheduled October full council meeting. All members have been given the opportunity to submit feedback to the IRP as part of the review.”
To view the full list of councillor allowance for 2019/20 visit rbwm.moderngov.co.uk/ecSDDisplay.aspx?NAME=SD204&ID=204&RPID=0