To consider the report and recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel relating to members’ allowances.
31.1 William Alexander, Chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel, presented the panel’s report in respect of members’ allowances for 2013/14.
31.2 He explained that the panel recommended no change to the basic rate of allowance for 2013-14, and that the level of special responsibility allowances in the scheme should remain unchanged for 2013-14.
31.3 One member, who was the chairman of a scrutiny committee, suggested that consideration should be given to extending the scheme of special responsibility allowances to include committee lead members alongside the committee chairs, in order to recognise the key role they played in the committee’s work.
31.4 One member explained that the role of chairman of the Pensions Committee had changed significantly over the years, in terms of the training requirements and the time invested. He suggested that in order to recognise this consideration should be given to the chairman of the Pensions Committee being included in the scheme of special responsibility allowances.
31.5 In response to the comments raised, the chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel explained that a more in-depth review of the special responsibility allowances in the scheme would be undertaken by the panel and asked members to forward any comments and suggestions to him via Simon Harper, Lead Democratic Services Adviser. He anticipated that recommendations would be brought forward to the committee later on in the year.
31.6 The chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel reported that the panel had recognised that the mileage allowance payable to Council staff was being brought into line with the HM Revenue and Customs rate. Consequently the panel had recommended that the mileage allowance payable to councillors from April 2013 should be brought into line with the HM Revenue and Customs rate. The committee supported this recommendation.
31.7 The panel had noted that the councillors representing some of the more rural divisions travel significant distances to parish and town council meetings and this was an important part of their representative role. The panel had therefore recommended that in future the costs of travelling to and from parish and town council meetings should be formally recognised in the allowance scheme.
31.8 Whilst some members were in support of this recommendation particularly as the forthcoming boundary changes post elections in May 2013 would mean fewer councillors, and councillors representing larger areas of the county, others felt that the recommendation could not be justified. One member suggested that the travel costs to parish and town council meetings would already be covered in the councillors’ basic allowance, paid in recognition of the duties they undertook in representing and serving the local community.
31.9 The committee noted that the panel had also recommended that the council should offer councillors the opportunity to join the Local Government Pension Scheme based on the basic allowance.
31.10 In response to a question the committee was informed that currently approximately a third of all councillors in the UK had the option to join the Local Government Pension Scheme, however the number taking up this offer was low, as the payout on a basic allowance was minimal.
31.11 The committee noted that the Department for Communities and Local Government had recently undertaken consultation on the proposal that there would be no access for councillors to the Local Government Pension Scheme in England from April 2014. A decision on this was expected to be published in the coming weeks.
31.12 The chairman of the Independent Remuneration Panel took the opportunity to express his gratitude to Sharon Clutterbuck and Julie Hill for their past assistance, and to Simon Harper who was currently advising the panel.
31.13 The committee resolved:
TO RECOMMEND THAT COUNCIL consider the following recommendations from the Independent Remuneration Panel:
(a) That no change be made to the Basic Allowance for 2013/14.
(b) That the level of special responsibility allowances in the scheme remain unchanged for 2013/14.
(c) That Gloucestershire County Council revert to the Inland Revenue’s authorised mileage allowance rate current at the time with effect from 1 April 2013.
(d) That travelling allowances are payable to councillors on journeys to and from parish and town council meetings within their division.
(e) That, in line with recommendations made in previous years, councillors should be given the opportunity to join the Local Government Pension Scheme based on the basic allowance.