Many councillors in local government across the UK receive modest allowances appropriate to the work they do representing taxpayers. Yet while many councillors’ workload is extensive, there are rarely appropriate metrics used in the determination of pay. People who live just miles apart from each other may be represented by councillors who have similar workloads but are entitled to vastly different allowances. The disparities between unitary, district and county council allowances in England are most obvious, but such trends can be seen across the UK.
In a time of increasing pressure on local authority resources, it is essential that every penny is spent wisely. Given that allowances are often set by councillors themselves, elected representatives must avoid any perception of feathering their own nests while the vast majority put up council tax. Now more than ever, excessive allowance payments to councillors are difficult to justify.
The total sum of all councillor allowance payments made in the UK in 2018-19 was £255 million. This was an increase of 1.8 per cent from 2017-18, when the figure was £251 million.
The highest basic allowance in the UK in 2018-19 was set by the Scottish remuneration panel at £16,994 for all Scottish local authorities. Of the 32 councils, 26 Scottish authorities paid the maximum basic allowance to their councillors.
The highest basic allowance for councillors in England in 2018-19 was £16,926, paid by Manchester city council. This was paid to all members of the council including Sir Richard Leese - the leader of Manchester city council. He also received an additional £42,272 in special responsibility allowance. The total payment he received was more than two and a half times median earnings in Manchester during 2019.
The highest basic allowance in Northern Ireland in 2018-19 was set by the Department for Communities at £14,775 for all Northern Irish local authorities. Of the ten councils, eight Northern Irish authorities paid the maximum basic allowance to their councillors.
The highest basic allowance in Wales in 2018-19 was set by the Welsh remuneration panel at £13,600 for all Welsh local authorities. Of the 21 councils, 18 Welsh authorities paid the maximum basic allowance to their councillors.
The highest basic allowance for a unitary council in England in 2018-19 was £14,189, paid by Cornwall.
The lowest basic allowance for councillors in the UK in 2018-19 was £687, paid by Torbay.
The highest special responsibility allowance in the UK in 2018-19 was £82,620 paid by Newham. This was a £781 increase from 2017-18 for the directly elected mayor.
- The lowest special responsibility allowance made in the UK in 2018-19 was £2,333, also paid by Torbay.
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