Penarth Town Council has decided to break its 140-year-long tradition of unpaid voluntary service by councillors and – for the first time – make an annual payment to the Leader of the Council.
Since 1875 all members of Penarth Town Council (now 16 of them) have been expected to do the job purely on a voluntary and unpaid basis. Except for the Mayor’s special allowance, all that the rest of them have been entitled to receive (if they claim it) is £100 a year to cover phone and IT costs and mileage on council duties and travelling expenses.
However Penarth Town Council’s policy and finance committee has been considering the final annual report of the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales – the body which decides on the payments and salaries of elected representatives – and has been going through a list of the panel’s “determinations” which have now widened the scope to give payment to some councillors.
COUNCIL LEADER REMUNERATION
A new “determination” by the Independent Remuneration Panel gives the council – for the very first time – the right, if it so decides, to pay up to 3 councillors an “additional annual payment of up to £500 in recognition of specific responsibilities”. This is an allowance which has never been paid before by Penarth Town Council.
The Town Clerk Shan Bowden – attending her final meeting prior to her retirement at the end of this month – justified the proposed new payment by saying “There are certain members who do spend a lot of time in the office. The role of the Leader particularly, not just in this administration but in any administration, is needed. That person’s time is needed within the office”. She told councillors “That is one area you may wish to consider” .
The Leader of Penarth Town Council, Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) who is also chair of the Policy and Finance Committee remained in the chair during the ensuing discussion and invited comments from councillors.
Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) said “There is a huge amount going on in this council with restructuring and the Town Plan and the Momentum Group which is taking a lot of time of the Leader . I suggest that, without making it a regular thing, that this year we pay the authorised £500 to the Leader of the Council – just the one payment because of the particular circumstances we find ourselves in”.
The potential beneficiary of this arrangement – Cllr Cuddy – asked from the chair if there were any other observations.
Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward) asked whether the amount in question would be reviewed annually. He was assured that it could be. Cllr Turner said he would support the payment.
Cllr Neil Thomas (Labour Cornerswell) – referring to the possibility of up to 3 councillors being eligible for the £500 payments – said he was aware that there were a lot of members of the council who put in a lot of time and effort. “It would” he said “be hard to distinguish just 2 others who merit this – compared with the numbers who do put that effort in“. He thought extending the payments to 3 councillors would be “unfair to the ones who would be missed out”. Cllr Thomas said the Council Leader [Cllr Cuddy] had a “particularly heavy duty”.
The Town Clerk, Shan Bowden – who retires at the end of this month – said the Leader of the council was – in effect – the “line manager to the Town Clerk”.
…”Particularly when you have a troublesome Town Clerk” – interjected Cllr Roberts to laughter.
Cllr Cuddy said he had heard the Town Clerk Shan Bowden being described as the “Angela Merkel of Penarth” .
The Town Clerk retorted – light-heartedly – that she had not actually heard the Leader calling her that – and might now consult her solicitor.
There was further laughter when Cllr Turner proposed – tongue-in-cheek – that, following that remark, the newly-agreed £500 payment to the Leader should now be reduced to £250. However, the £500 annual payment was agreed.
The Policy and Finance Committee also debated the so-called “Civic Allowance” determination. This authorises town councils to pay allowances to both the Town Mayor and the Deputy Town Mayor during their parallel years of office.
Until now Penarth Council has paid the Town Mayor an allowance (currently £3,000) for the year of office but the policy has been to pay the Deputy Mayor nothing.
Cllr Anthony Ernest (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said he disagreed with the existing council policy. He said it was quite often necessary for the Deputy Mayor to attend functions in lieu of the mayor and did so “out of their own pocket and at their own expense”. Without an allowance if Deputy Mayors were to represent the town “suitably attired I think the phrase is” and contribute to raffles and such things they would be doing so out of their own pocket. It was unacceptable that the Deputy Mayor – when standing in for the Mayor – had to then go to the Mayor and ask for a contribution towards costs incurred. He moved that the council pay Deputy Mayors the sum of £200 for their year in office.
The committee chairman Cllr Cuddy – already the beneficiary of the £500 payment for Leader – noted that he was also the current Deputy Mayor but remained in his chair for the discussion.
The motion to pay £200 to the Deputy Mayor was seconded by Cllr Gwyn Roberts (Labour St Augustines) and supported by Cllr Clive Williams (Conservative Plymouth Ward) who said that if the Deputy was acting on behalf of the council “they should have some remuneration”.
Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines) said he agreed with the motion – but he somewhat qualified his remarks by pointing out that “The spirit of the Town Council is one of volunteering” .
However Cllr Rapier supported the proposal to make a new payment to the Deputy Mayor. If the Deputy Mayor was not in receipt of an allowance, he said, “Somehow it ever-so-slightly demeans the office – it slightly cheapens it – and that cannot be right” .
Drawing the debate to a conclusion, Cllr Cuddy said there was unanimity, “to all intents and purposes”. The payments will now be implemented.
PDN NOTE: Under the new Wales-wide rules of the Independent Remuneration Panel, councillors are also allowed to claim for expenses incurred when on duty outside the council area as follows:-
- £28 per day for meals – including breakfast.
- £200 London overnight allowance
- £95 overnight allowance elsewhere (out of the council area)
- £30 Staying with friends or family overnight (out of the council area)
Councillors can claim at “attendance allowance” for “attending approved duties outside the area of the council”:-
- £16.23 for a period not exceeding 4 hours
- £32.46 for a period exceeding 4 hours but not exceeding 24 hours
FINANCIAL LOSS ALLOWANCE:
Councillors attending approved duties outside the council area can claim – instead of an attendance allowance (as above) a “Financial Loss Allowance” (e.g. to recompense for loss of loss of pay) “where such loss has actually occurred” at the following rates:-
- £30.45 for a period not exceeding 4 hours
- £60.11 for a period over 4 but less than 24 hours
- For a period over 24 hours £60.11 plus such amount as appropriate
The Remuneration Panel has authorised councils – including Penarth Town Council – to pay councillors up to £403.00p a month to fund the care of “dependent children and others whilst attending meetings and other approved duties” .
Councillors can also now reclaim the costs of what is delphically called “the care of personal assistance needs provided by informal or formal carers” .
It says this is to “address issues of democratic participation and diversity “. Councillors have to produce receipts “from the carer ” to prove the expenditure has actually been incurred.
The Independent Remuneration Panel has laid down that all councils must publish the details of all payments made to individual councillors on its website by September 30th each year and says “the panel notes with concern that this requirement has not been complied with by many councils” .