Councillors voted to increase their pay by more than £200 last night despite a call to freeze it while the Island suffers from COVID-19.
At a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council on Wednesday, the member’s allowance scheme was passed which, following the advice of an independent remuneration panel, increases councillors basic and special responsibility allowances by 2.75%.
This means the basic allowance for all 40 Isle of Wight Councillors for 2020/21 is now £8,231 – a £220 increase from the previous financial year when councillors received £8,011. This will cost the tax payer an additional £8,800.
Councillor Debbie Andre, leader of the Island Independent Group, however, asked councillors to freeze the allowance increase. She said:
“It is totally inappropriate in this situation we are currently in to be accepting an increase.
“I know was agreed as an annual percentage increase but in light of recent times I propose we freeze the allowance.”
The move was only supported by 2 other councillors, Michael Lilley and Paul Fuller, while 6 councillors abstained from the vote — councillors Barry Downer, John Howe, John Medland, Lora Peacey-Wilcox, Ian Stephens and Shirley Smart. However, 29 councillors voted against the motion and with the majority, approved the increase.
Cllr Richard Hollis said:
“The work does not stop — valuable councillors put in a hell of a lot of work, I don’t see why they should be belittled for having a small amount of recompense for the hours and hours that they do.”
Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Dave Stewart, said:
“I would say any councillor can choose not to take any part of their allowance. I also support the raise in staff salaries as they have worked very hard during the pandemic.”
Cabinet member for strategic finance, Cllr Stuart Hutchinson, said the allowances were linked to the pay awards in the first places to take away any political debates. He said:
“We are fortunate to have an independent review panel and we ought to follow the recommendations — sometimes they will be beneficial, sometimes they won’t.”
Cllr Clare Mosdell reminded the meeting of ex-councillor Julia Baker-Smith who had had to use a foodbank while getting the allowance. She said:
“The allowances are not huge and we shouldn’t ever compare our financial circumstances to others. We shouldn’t be putting people in a position where we have to have this discussion. Bills haven’t frozen.”
Other increases were made to special allowances some councillors receive for fulfilling other roles in the council, such as being a cabinet member, chair of a committee and a leader of a group. The leader of the council receives an additional £16,462 on top of the basic allowance, deputy leader £10,289 and cabinet member £8,231.