Town hall scraps plans to increase councillors' pay

An independent review into the Tesco Towers development accused Cllr Jas Athwal of making 'demonstrably false claims'...

Cllr Jas Athwal - Credit: Andrew Baker

Redbridge Council has scrapped plans for a small increase to councillors’ pay following objections from some members.

The General Purposes committee met last night (January 12) to discuss a number of changes to the allowances policy, such as making rules around maternity and paternity pay more explicit.

A report prepared for the meeting noted that councillor allowances have not increased since 2007 and have in fact been cut twice in the intervening period, in 2009 and 2014.

Redbridge councillors, including the leader, deputy leader and cabinet, all earn less than their equivalents at neighbouring councils, such as Waltham Forest and Havering.

The report originally suggested a small increase to match the rise to officers’ pay agreed in October last year but council leader Jas Athwal agreed to scrap this during the meeting.

Explaining his reason for opposing the rise, Cllr Michael Duffell (Con, South Woodford) said: “I do not think I can stomach voting for an increase right now.

“Thousands and thousands of people are losing their jobs, on furlough or in very difficult circumstances. I did not come into politics to be voting to increase my own pay.

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“We should be setting an example to the public and I think there’s going to be a lot of members of the public where this does not strike them very well. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”

However, he joined other members in praising the explicit support for councillors becoming parents, adding that, as a gay man, he was pleased to see leave provided for adoptive families.

Despite Cllr Athwal almost immediately agreeing to remove the pay increase, Cllr Duffell was the only committee member not to support the amended policy, instead abstaining on the vote.

Cllr Athwal told the committee “one of the first things” his administration did on gaining power in 2014 was cut all councillors’ pay, which has since saved the council around £500,000.

He also noted he was particularly pleased by changes to the maternity policy, which he hoped would help to attract more women into politics.

Cllr Kam Rai (Lab, Goodmayes) argued that, though it was easy for him and many other members to forgo the small pay rise, not all councillors were as financially secure.

He said: “We have not seen any increase for many years, while for many councillors their responsibilities and workload have probably increased. 

“For me and many on this committee, it makes no difference but for some I’m sure it does. We should be thinking beyond our own circumstances.”

The amended pay policy now needs to be agreed at the next full council meeting on January 21.

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