Hunts councillors set to cut their own pay

COUNCILLORS in Huntingdonshire will be asked on Wednesday to reduce the allowances they pay themselves.

Until this year, changes in HDC members’ allowances have tracked the retail prices index, which is no longer considered appropriate because it does not reflect movements in incomes.

If councillors agree today, allowances will change in line with national movements in local government employees’ pay, even though HDC staff have a local pay deal.

At present, every councillor gets a basic allowance of �4,459, which will reduce to �4,235 from next April.

The leader, Councillor Ian Bates, currently gets an additional �14,753 a year as a special responsibility allowance (SRA). That will go down to �14,010 next May when he becomes ‘executive leader’.

The deputy leader’s SRA will fall from 11,095 now to �10,537, and other cabinet members will lose nearly �450 of their �8,839 allowance.

SRAs for committee chairmen and vice-chairmen will also go down. Hardest hit will be chairmen of scrutiny panels who will lose more than �1,000 from their �6,645 allowance.

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The official opposition leader, Liberal Democrat Councillor Peter Downes, will have his allowance cut from �8,126 to �7,005, and the position of minor opposition party leaders will be rationalised.

Cllr Peter Reeve, leader of the two-member UKIP group, retains a small allowance (�761, reducing to �723 next year), but in future party groups will need to have at least five members for the leader to qualify for an additional allowance.

Some councillors do not accept the full allowances to which they are entitled, which is likely to save Council Tax payers �21,000 in 2010/11.

The council is also expected to rationalise mileage payments into line with HM Revenue and Customs rates allowed for income tax purposes.

At present, councillors have a variety of rates, depending on size of engine, length of service, carbon dioxide emissions and rates claimed by council officers, and some have a choice of rates within that. To confuse matters further, some actually claim at a lower rate than that to which they are entitled.

From next year, HDC members will lose the right to meal allowances for carrying out duties within the district but will still be able to claim for meals taken elsewhere on council business.

The reductions and rationalisations are expected to save �4,000 a year in allowances and a further �4,500 in mileage on top of the unclaimed �21,000.