ENVIRONMENT Minister, Alex Attwood has launched a consultation on whether to reduce allowances by two thirds for councillors who are also MPs, MLA’s or members of the House of Lords.
At present a councillor’s basic allowance is £9,738. If they are also an MP or MLA or member of the House of Lords, this will reduce to £3,246. Some councillors also receive a special responsibility allowance. However, the amounts paid are set by each council.
It is proposed that payments of this allowance should also be subject to a two-thirds reduction for any councillor who is also an MP or MLA or member of the House of Lords.
The consultation period closes on the 16th December 2011.
Alex Attwood said, “I believe that elected representatives – whether in councils, the Assembly or at Westminster – should receive reasonable allowances for performing their civic duty. Political life, as with so many jobs, is demanding and carries risk, and the commitment from our local councillors is considerable. Indeed, I will create a review of councillors’ allowances in terms of RPA going forward.
“However, there is still an issue about councillors who hold multiple mandates receiving their full council, Assembly or even Westminster entitlements. In my opinion this needs to be adjusted. I believe it is also the opinion of the majority of taxpayers. That is why I am consulting on reducing the allowances of people in this position by two thirds while still recognising the valuable role played by our elected representatives.
“Indeed to be thorough and hear all opinions, I am asking people to advise if there should be no change, although clearly this is not where I believe the weight of argument or evidence is.”
The main allowances that make up the system of councillors’ remuneration are set out in two sets of regulations made under section 36 of the Local Government Act 1972 ( Northern Ireland) (“the 1972 Act”):
* the Local Government (Payments to Councillors) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999 (as amended), and
* the Local Government (Travelling and Subsistence Allowances to Councillors) (No.2) Regulations 1973 (as amended)
The Department has consulted on regulations which will revoke and replace these regulations from 1 April 2011 (the draft Local Government (Payments to Councillors) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011). These regulations propose no change to the types of allowances which should be paid to councillors.
The main allowances which are subject to this consultation and currently paid to councillors are:
* the basic allowance – which covers anything done in connection with service as a councillor. The council determines the amount of basic allowance it will pay but it must be within the maximum set by the Department (currently £9,738) and, at present, must be the same for each councillor;
* the special responsibility allowance – which is a payment in addition to the basic allowance where the council is satisfied that the councillor has special responsibilities in relation to the discharge of the functions of the council. The Department determines the maximum amount (banded by size of population) that the council may spend on SRA and it is for the council to decide which responsibilities attract an SRA and the amount of payment for each SRA. The current levels are given below;
* for councils with populations which exceed 200,000 – the maximum amount in a financial year is £82,000;
* for councils with populations of 100,000-200,000 – the maximum amount in a financial year is £61,500;
* for councils with populations of 50,000-100,000 – the maximum amount in a financial year is £30,750;
* for councils with populations not exceeding 50,000 – the maximum amount in a financial year is £20,500.
* in all cases, the maximun which may be paid to an individual member of a council is one-fifth of the council’s maximum amount