Fylde Council’s leader has defended an increase in allowances for members which prompted a storm of protest from opposition councillors.
Coun Sue Fazackerley’s special responsibility allowance as leader is to go up from £6,000 to £10,000, while the basic allowance paid to members will increase by £3,750, special responsibility allowances to committee chairmen of from £3,250 to £4,000 and an allowance of £2,000 is being introduced for the chairman of the member development steering group.
There has previously been no increase in allowances since 2006
The changes, proposed by the ruling Conservatives at the last full council meeting, come following the switch of governance at the Town Hall from a cabinet to a committee system.
Opposition councillors were united in voting against the increases and the council’s one Labour member, Jan Barker of St Annes’ Central ward, has pledged to give her increase to charity.
But Coun Fazackerley said it was the first increase for nine years and that Fylde Council’s payments to members were still among the lowest in Lancashire.
“There has previously been no increase in allowances since 2006,” she said. “Although the independent remuneration panel has actually recommended them, we have said no, but the change of governance has prompted us to look at the situation.
“As for my position, I previously held a cabinet position as well as being leader, so under the old system, there was a cabinet allowance of £4,000 plus £6,000 as leader.
“Under the new system, the leader does not have a chairmanship.
“The allowance reflects the overall responsibility, we have consulted the Local Government Association on the matter – but represents no real term rise”
But opposition leader, independent Coun Liz Oades, said: “It’s just not on, especially with so many families struggling to make ends meet, and we all voted against.”
Coun Barker added: “No amount of statistics, faint-hearted comparisons and bleating about inflation can hide the fact that these increases are unfair in the light of austerity hardships felt by hard hit families of the Fylde.
“I intend to pay the full increase I receive to Fylde Foodbank.”
Coun Karen Buckley, chairman of the council’s finance and democracy committee, said that the changes amounted to a total of £56,318 of special responsibility payments compared with special responsibility payments under the previous governance system of £60,888, so actually represented an overall reduction.