Guildford Borough Council’s Executive recommends one-year freeze in councillor allowances due to council’s finances.

23 Nov 2023
Liberal Democrat Elected Guildford Borough Councillors

Guildford Borough Council’s Executive recommends one-year freeze in councillor allowances due to council’s finances

The Executive at Liberal Democrat-run Guildford Borough Council voted this evening to recommend that the council should defer for 12 months any decision on an independent report which has recommended increases to councillor allowances. This would freeze allowances at their current level until then.

An Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) had recommended that the basic allowance paid annually to all councillors be increased from £8,348 to £8,579, as well as other changes to the scheme of allowances and expenses.

Whilst appreciating the work and detail that the panel had applied to making their recommendations on how councillor allowances are calculated and awarded, Executive members agreed that anything which increased council expenditure was not in the best interest of residents at a time when there is still concern and major ongoing efforts to address the council’s medium term budget deficit.

In the same meeting the Executive heard that the medium term budget deficit has now been reduced to £7.3 million, down from £18.3 million this summer, due to cost-saving measures including plans to sell £50 million of assets and a £100 million reduction in planned borrowing.

The report recommending changes to councillor allowances had been produced by the IRP, which has surveyed all councillors and interviewed a selection of councillors from across the chamber to gain a deeper insight into the workload of councillors from leader to backbencher. 

The eight lead members noted one particular passage in the report: “that a successful allowance scheme will enable any local person regardless of income or status to be able to stand for elections and fulfil roles of office without experiencing the deterrent of financial disadvantage” but said that adopting this new system at a time when there was still uncertainty around the council’s finances would not be responsible.

All eight members of the Executive voted to recommend to Full Council, when it meets on 5th December, that any decision on the recommended new scheme of allowances should be deferred for 12 months. This would mean that the existing scheme of allowances would remain in place, freezing allowances at their current level.

Commenting after the debate Councillor Julia McShane thanked the Independent Remuneration Panel for their thoughtful and insightful report:

“I am very grateful to the panel for the detailed work that they have given to this report, and I particularly acknowledge their recognition of the need to enhance democracy with a series of measures to enable local people from a variety of backgrounds to step forward for election to the role of councillor.

“The Executive committee have taken the right decision this evening in voting to recommend deferring adoption of the panel’s recommendation until such time as we have certainty that the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan is on a sound footing. There are many sensible ideas in the report and I look forward to having the chance to consider these again in twelve months’ time.”