SWINDON Council are appealing for a member of the public to help decide how much councillors should get paid, as the council leader said members are reticent to accept any increase.
Applications are being welcomed for those who are unaffiliated with any political groups to sit on a five member independent remuneration panel.
The rate of basic allow-ance to all councillors currently stands at £7,710 a year, staying at the same level as the 2012/2013 financial year. Special allowances are granted to certain positions to reflect their workload, with the leader of the council receiving an extra £19,674.46, cabinet members being topped up to the tune of £9,836.68, and the mayor getting a boost of £10,000.
While any change would have to be approved by the full council, members have expressed a reluctance to any increase considering the current financial climate.
David Renard, leader of Swindon Council, said: “The challenge is always that any recommendations they come forward with has to come to full council, and it is up to councillors themselves to accept or reject any proposals.
“I think councillors in all parties are aware of the fact that things are challenging financially, so there is a reluctance to accept any recommendations for increases.
“On the other side of the coin, if you want to attract a broad range of people to become councillors there does need to be an appropriate level of remuneration to attract that level of talent.
“I do not think it is an ideal system for deciding. You also have to look at the level of allowances, which is low in Swindon compared with other local authorities.
“Wiltshire gets considerably more in allowances for the same functions, so I think there is an issue with equality, but now is probably not the time to look at adjusting levels in Swindon.
“It is extremely difficult to find candidates who are willing to stand for council.
“When you take decisions people are not keen on, we have to take a lot of criticism, which people view as a reason for not wanting to stand.”
Richard Symonds, 62, of Shaw, who is planning to stand for election to Swindon Council next May, said he believes the number of councillors could be cut.
He said: “We do not need 57 councillors for the borough of Swindon. “We could do the same job with a third of that number, so there is a strong argument for cutting the number of councillors.
“By reducing the number and splitting the allowances among fewer councillors, we can ensure they are remunerated enough to do their job properly.
“The amount currently being paid brings into question the motivation for some people to stand for council.”
The panel vacancy would require a commitment of around 18 hours a year, with the panel usually meeting once annually. An allowance of £200 a year would be paid along with travel and subsistence expenses.
Anyone interested in the vacancy should contact Ian Willcox at the council on 01793 463601, or firstname.lastname@example.org. The closing date for applications is Friday, February7 To vote in the Adver’s online poll visit www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk/news/10925506.POLL__Are_Swindon_s_councillors_worth_their_wage_.
We are asking whether the public feels councillors are paid too much, not enough or just the right amount.
As we went to press, 48 per cent of readers felt councillors should be paid less than the basic £7,710, while 32 per cent felt it was about right and 20 per cent believed they should be paid more.
The poll closes on Saturday evening.