1.          INTRODUCTION

 

1.1      The Panel comprises:

 

Alan Morgan (Chairman) Head of Human Resources at Wessex Water Plc

Malcolm Jenkins, Assistant Divisional Officer, Avon Fire and Rescue Service

Derek De Val, Retired Associate Director Audit Commission

Phillida Russell, Teacher

 

The panel is assisted as an independent adviser by Dr. Keith Robinson, Chief Executive of Wiltshire County Council.

 

I would like to thank the panel members and Dr. Robinson for freely giving both their time and commitment.

 

1.2        I would like to thank the councillors and political group representatives who provided written and verbal submissions to the panel during the course of this review.

 

1.3        I would also like to thank the Solicitor to the Council, Vernon Hitchman, and the members of his staff who provided administrative support and assistance to the panel in the course of our work - Tom Dunne, Democratic Services Manager (Council and Member Services), Lola Thomas, Member Support Officer, and Anne Larkins, Members’ Secretary.

 

 1.4        The scheme of allowances first recommended in April 2002 and reviewed annually since then has, in the panel’s view, served the Council well during its transition to new ways of working.  However, changes have taken place from both local and national initiatives which necessitate a fundamental review of the allowances structure.

 

 1.5        The panel began this comprehensive review of allowances in 2006 and considered their recommendations in the context of the changes made to the decision-making structure following the Council Election in May 2007 before submitting their recommendations to the Council for consideration in August 2007.

 

Alan Morgan

Chairman

29th August 2007


2.         THE PANEL’S RECOMMENDATIONS

 

RECOMMENDATION 1: The panel recommend a Basic Allowance for 2007/2008 of £7,450 which comprises an Allowance of £6,850 together with an Incidental Expenses Allowance (non-taxable) of £600 (see Recommendation 2 below).

 

RECOMMENDATION 2: The panel recommend that the Council continues to pay an additional sum as a non-taxable amount to cover incidental expenses, as defined by the Inland Revenue.  For 2007/08 that sum should be £600.  Clear guidance should be provided on what is and what is not covered by this amount.

 

RECOMMENDATION 3: The panel recommend that the Council make available publicly on an annual basis a full register of attendance at Council, Cabinet, Panel and Committee meetings to aid transparency and accountability in assisting the public to understand the work councillors do on their behalf.

 

RECOMMENDATION 4: The panel recommend that the Council continues its practice of making provision for inflating the Basic and Special Responsibility Allowances each year by the amount it includes within its budget for anticipated staff pay awards.  This is on the basis that the allowances are adjusted when the actual salary settlement is agreed.

 

RECOMMENDATION 5: The panel recommend that all councillors when elected undertake a structured training and induction programme.

 

RECOMMENDATION 6: The panel recommend that all councillors in receipt of SRAs undertake further specific training and development relating to those roles above and beyond the general induction and training offered to all councillors.

 

RECOMMENDATION 7: The panel recommend the following SRA payments (related to the level of the Basic Allowance (B.A.) as shown) and the Group Training Allocation:

 

Leader of the Council                                     £29,112 (4.25 x B.A.)

Deputy Leader of the Council                       £23,975 (3.5 x B.A.)

Cabinet Members                                          £23,975 (3.5 x B.A.)

 

Chairman of Council                                      £8,562 (1.25 x B.A)

Overview and Scrutiny Panel Chairs           £8,562 (1.25 x B.A.)

Chair Development Control Committee       £8,562 (1.25x B.A.)

Chair Avon Pension Fund Committee         £8,562 (1.25x B.A.)

Chairs of Licensing Sub-Committees          £4,281 (0.625 x B.A.)

Councillor Members of the Adoption and    £3,425 (0.50x B.A.)

Permanence Panel

 

Political Group Leaders                                  £400 per Group member

Group Training Allocation                              £100 per Group member

 

RECOMMENDATION 8: The panel recommend that councillors in receipt of more than one SRA should receive 50% of any second SRA that they are eligible to receive.

 

RECOMMENDATION 9: The panel recommend continuation of the following elements of the current Scheme of Members’ Allowances:

 

Allowances Paid to the two Non-Councillor Voting Members of the Avon Pension Fund Committee Approved in May 2006

Definitions of Approved Duties for which Expenses and Carer`s Allowances are payable

Travel and Subsistence Expenses

Carer Allowances

Avon Pension Fund arrangements for councillors’ pensions

Annual inflationary indexation of allowances.

 

RECOMMENDATION 10: The panel recommend that the Council decides the date on which the proposed amendments to the Scheme of Allowances set out in this report should take effect. There is the option either to implement them from 18th May 2007 (the day after the Annual General Meeting) or else to implement them from 14th September 2007 (the day after the Council meeting at which they are adopted). In deciding on this the Council should have regard to any cost or workload implications of backdating Allowance payments or recovering over-payments.

 

RECOMMENDATION 11: The panel invite the Council to consider whether, as the employee pay award for 2007 to which the inflationary uplift is linked has not yet been agreed, it wishes to move to the new Allowance rates for 2007/08 recommended in this report without applying any retrospective backdated inflationary uplift to the 2006/07 Allowances when the pay award is finalised. In deciding on this the Council should have regard to any cost or workload implications of backdating Allowance payments.

 

RECOMMENDATION 12: The panel would raise no objection to councillors who are entitled to SRAs deciding to forego all or part of those Allowances to enable them to be pooled in a collective pot from which their political group could allocate Allowances to other councillors undertaking duties which do not qualify for an SRA. The panel`s view is that, if this is done, then it should apply only to SRAs (and not to the Basic Allowance) and, for reasons of transparency, be agreed within the political group concerned (not through an arrangement made between individual councillors).

 

RECOMMENDATION 13:  The panel consider that the Allowances recommended in this review should continue to apply for the life of this Council until the next Election in 2011, unless there are significant changes to roles or responsibilities made before then that would result in the Council inviting the panel to review the Allowances structure.

  

3.         REVIEW PROCESS

 

The panel have considered:

 

·                        Written submissions by councillors and political groups (including responses to a questionnaire)

·                        Verbal submissions by councillors and political groups

·                        Comparative statistics from other councils and the Local Government Association.

 

4.         THE SCOPE OF THE REVIEW

 

4.1        The panel undertook a complete review of the current scheme of allowances.

 

4.2        In reaching their conclusions the panel had regard to:

 

·                        The need to attract councillors from a cross-section of the community;

·                        The need to balance the voluntary effort required by councillors with the financial sacrifice that is made to fulfil the role properly;

·                        The need to ensure that councillors are not ‘out of pocket’ in fulfilling their roles as councillors;

·                        The need to construct a scheme of allowances that are transparent, logical, understandable and defendable in public.

 

5.         SCHEME OF ALLOWANCES

 

            Basic Allowance

 

5.1         The law provides for an allowance to be payable to all members of the Council and at the same level for each member known as the Basic Allowance.

 

5.2         The panel expect all members when elected to undertake a structured induction and training programme which may include individual development plans.  The panel believe that a councillor should undertake the following activities as an integral part of their core function for which the Basic Allowance is payable:

·                         Ward case work

·                         Community leadership at Council and other meetings

·                         Representing the Council on outside bodies

·                         Serving on committees, panels, boards and working groups

·                         Acting as a Member Champion if appointed to do so

·                         Chairing committee, panel or other meetings if appointed to do so (unless in exceptional circumstances for workload and other reasons the category of chairmanship qualifies for an SRA – see paragraphs 6.7 to 6.9 below)

·                         Undertaking appropriate induction, training and development

5.3         The panel have considered information provided by councillors on the time commitment they estimated that their different roles required.

 

5.4         The panel have also had regard to the importance to the general public of the voluntary element of community service which the role of a councillor carries and believe that this is integral to an understanding of the role.  Therefore, it needs to be recognised that the Basic Allowance is payment for carrying out that role, and not directly analogous to the salary for a full time job.

 

5.5         The panel have concluded that there is no ’universal’ answer when determining the Basic Allowance as any figure used in the formula is open to debate and challenge.  The panel also see no merit in constructing a complicated formula to determine the Basic Allowance.

 

5.6         Practice varies widely throughout the country on the use of comparative information against which to benchmark allowances.  The panel have concluded, in the absence of clear guidance, to take the average of other comparable Councils, in this case the NUB (Audit Commission New Unitaries Benchmarking Group) Councils and similar councils in the South West. In reaching their recommendation on the level of Basic Allowance the panel have taken the latest information available to them on these factors into account. The figure of £6,850 is recommended for that reason (it has not been arrived at by applying an uplift factor to the 2006/07 figure of £6,649).

 

5.7         The panel believe the non-taxable incidental allowance should continue to be paid and that guidance be made available to clarify what is and is not included in that allowance, what can be purchased from central sources (paid for by councillors) and what can be provided by the Council.  This should be decided on a consistent basis so that all councillors are treated fairly whilst minimising the administrative costs and time involved in implementing the system.

 

5.8         The panel are aware that the Council has a policy of providing Councillors with computers for their Council work.

 

RECOMMENDATION 1: The panel recommend a Basic Allowance for 2007/2008 of £7,450 which comprises an Allowance of £6,850 together with an Incidental Expenses Allowance (non-taxable) of £600 (see Recommendation 2 below).

 

RECOMMENDATION 2: The panel recommend that the Council continues to pay an additional sum as a non-taxable amount to cover incidental expenses, as defined by the Inland Revenue.  For 2007/08 that sum should be £600.  Clear guidance should be provided on what is and what is not covered by this.

 

RECOMMENDATION 3: The panel recommend that the Council make available publicly on an annual basis a full register of attendance at Council, Cabinet, Panel and Committee meetings to aid transparency and accountability in assisting the public to understand the work councillors do on their behalf.

 

RECOMMENDATION 4: The panel recommend that the Council continues its practice of making provision for inflating the Basic and Special Responsibility Allowances each year by the amount it includes within its budget for anticipated staff pay awards.  This is on the basis that the allowances are adjusted when the actual salary settlement is agreed.

 

RECOMMENDATION 5: The panel recommend that all councillors when elected undertake a structured training and induction programme.

 

 

6.         SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY ALLOWANCES (SRAs)

 

6.1        The Council has discretion to pay SRAs  in addition to the Basic Allowance for defined special responsibility roles.

 

6.2        The panel believe that SRAs should only be paid where there are significant extra responsibilities required from councillors which are likely to be a mix of time and/or expertise over and above what would be regarded as coming within the duties normally expected of an elected Member.

 

6.3        The panel expect councillors in receipt of an SRA to undertake further specific training and development. 

 

6.4        The panel recommend the continuation of the Group Training Allocation for each political group based on £100 per member.

 

6.5         The panel recommend that SRAs continue to be linked proportionally to the Basic Allowance. The figures recommended by the panel for SRAs in 2007/08 are based on that calculation as shown in the table (they have not been arrived at by applying an uplift factor to the 2006/07 figures).

 

6.6        The panel are aware that the Council currently restricts the payment of more than one SRA per member.  However, the panel have received representations from councillors about this and believe that it is timely to revisit that restriction.  Consequently, the panel have concluded that it should be relaxed to recognise the additional work involved in taking on more than one special responsibility role.  The panel therefore recommend that councillors in receipt of more than one SRA should receive 50% of any second SRA for which they are eligible but that this should not apply to any further SRAs for which a councillor may be eligible.

 

6.7        The panel have carefully considered the work undertaken by councillors in chairing committees and panels and whether this should qualify for a special responsibility allowance.  They have concluded that the chairing of meetings is a task that councillors can be expected to undertake as part of their normal duties without extra payment over and above the Basic Allowance.  The panel’s view is that only where there is a substantial essential time commitment required outside the meeting, can a special responsibility allowance be justified.

 

6.8        The panel also took the view that there are fundamentally different requirements for chairing various types of meetings.  Some require a considerable degree of political judgement and leadership and high public visibility on issues which are controversial within the local community.  Other meetings operate within a much tighter regulatory framework and have available to them on a regular basis the services of well-qualified specialist advisers.

 

6.9        The panel have given careful consideration to the factors      which are relevant in reaching a decision on whether the post of a Committee or Panel Chair qualifies for an SRA. They have identified the following:

 

·         There is a substantial essential time commitment required from the Chair outside the meeting to provide the necessary direction and leadership on issues that come within the purview of the panel or committee.

·         A considerable degree of political judgement and leadership on the part of the Chair is required on a regular basis to regulate the committee`s business effectively.

·         The Chair is required to have high public visibility and accountability on issues coming before the committee which are controversial within the local community. 

·         There is an appreciable amount of input from members of the public at meetings on a regular basis which requires to be sensitively managed by the Chair.

·         The risk of decisions being challenged by way of judicial review or other statutory processes is relatively high so the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that proper procedures are followed by the panel or committee is significant.

·         The consequences of decisions not properly made by that committee would have significant implications for the Council and the community in Bath and North East Somerset.

·         The length and frequency of committee meetings are a relevant consideration in terms of the workload required from the Chair.

·         The amount of work outside the meeting including any specific training that the Chair is required to undertake in order to prepare adequately for it is a consideration.

·         The extent to which meetings operate within a tight regulatory framework and have available to them on a regular basis the services of well-qualified specialist advisers is a consideration.  Where this is the case there is less justification for an SRA than in those cases where the Chair must carry greater responsibility for exercising judgement and leadership to guide the committee in deciding on how to proceed.

 

6.10     This explains why the panel has taken a different approach in recommending SRAs for the Chairs of the Overview & Scrutiny Panels, Development Control Committee, Avon Pension Fund Committee and the Licensing Sub-Committees but does not see the case for an SRA to be paid to the Chairs of other Regulatory or Non-Executive Committees.

 

6.11     The panel has carefully considered the case for recommending an SRA for the councillor members of the Avon Pension Fund Committee other than the Chair and concluded that it is not justified.  A survey of other County and Unitary Councils which administer comparable local authority pension funds indicates that, whilst some pay an SRA to the Committee Chair, none pay an SRA to committee members. It is acknowledged that the Pension Fund  Committee members are expected to undertake training appropriate to their role in addition to attending the quarterly committee meetings, but that is no different to the expectation placed on the members of other committees and panels, all of whom are expected to participate in training appropriate to their roles. The Pension Fund Committee has been strengthened since 2006 by the appointment of two independent members with a professional background relevant to the management of the Pension Fund, in line with the recommendations of the Myners Report. Those two committee members contribute to the committee`s deliberations using their background knowledge and experience and this makes it easier for the councillor members to identify and understand the relevant issues the committee needs to consider in reaching decisions. That eases the workload of the councillor members of the committee as they now have available to them the opinion of these experienced fellow committee members.

 

6.12     The panel were asked to consider if the posts of councillor members of the Adoption and Permanence Panel should be eligible for an SRA.  They concluded that this was justified given the workload involved in preparing for meetings; the time commitment involved in attending the monthly meetings and additional training; the sensitive subject matter of the issues to be decided; and the profound consequences for the children and families involved of the conclusions reached on the cases dealt with by the Panel.  Although the Allowances Panel was not asked to consider an SRA for the post of councillor member of the Fostering Panel they concluded that, if the Council decides to allocate such an SRA, then it should be on the same basis as for the Adoption and Permanence Panel because of the similarity of the work involved.

 

6.13     The panel’s view is that the public and civic representational role of the Chairman of the Council should be recognised in the payment of an SRA.  However, the role of the Vice-Chairman is essentially one of support and assistance to the Chairman and significantly less demanding in terms of time commitment.  The panel are aware that past Chairmen also assist with civic functions when the Vice-Chairman is not available.  Therefore the panel does not believe that the payment of an SRA to the Vice-Chairman is appropriate.

 

 

6.14     The panel noted the work done by councillors who serve as designated Member Champions appointed to promote issues of interest within the Council and the local community and that this role is emerging nationally as an important new aspect of local government.  The panel concluded that being a Member Champion was essentially part of the work which councillors could reasonably be expected to undertake in their community leadership role for which the Basic Allowance is the payment.  The panel considered therefore that an SRA is not appropriate for Member Champions.

 

 

RECOMMENDATION 6: The panel recommend that all councillors in receipt of SRAs undertake further specific training and development relating to those roles above and beyond the general induction and training offered to all councillors.

 

RECOMMENDATION 7: The panel recommend the following SRA payments (related to the level of the Basic Allowance (B.A.) as shown) and the Group Training Allocation:

 

Leader of the Council                                     £29,112 (4.25 x B.A.)

Deputy Leader of the Council                       £23,975 (3.5 x B.A.)

Cabinet Members                                          £23,975 (3.5 x B.A.)

 

Chairman of Council                                      £8,562 (1.25 x B.A)

Overview and Scrutiny Panel Chairs           £8,562 (1.25 x B.A.)

Chair Development Control Committee       £8,562 (1.25x B.A.)

Chair Avon Pension Fund Committee         £8,562 (1.25x B.A.)

Chairs of Licensing Sub-Committees          £4,281 (0.625 x B.A.)

Councillor Members of the Adoption and    £3,425 (0.50x B.A.)

Permanence Panel

 

Political Group Leaders                                  £400 per Group member

Group Training Allocation                              £100 per Group member

 

RECOMMENDATION 8: The panel recommend that councillors in receipt of more than one SRA should receive 50% of any second SRA that they are eligible to receive.

  

7.         IMPLEMENTATION

 

7.1  The panel noted that any changes to Allowances made during the financial year must be amendments to the existing Scheme.

 

7.2  The panel are aware that there may be an additional cost and an administrative burden involved in processing backdated allowances or recovering over-payments.  The panel therefore recommend that the Council considers the implications of this before deciding when the new Allowances should be implemented. There is the option either to backdate them and therefore to implement them from 18th May 2007 (the day after the Council`s Annual General Meeting) or else to implement them from the day after the Council Meeting at which they are adopted (i.e. from 14th September 2007).

 

7.3  The panel invite the Council to consider whether, as the employee pay award for 2007 to which the inflationary uplift is linked has not yet been agreed, it wishes to move to the new Allowance rates for 2007/08 recommended in this report without applying any retrospective backdated inflationary uplift to the 2006/07 Allowances when the pay award is finalised later in September or October. In deciding on this the Council should have regard to any cost or workload implications of backdating Allowance payments.

 

7.4  The panel were asked to consider if they had any objection to councillors who are entitled to SRAs deciding to forego all or part of those Allowances to enable them to be pooled in a collective pot from which their political group could allocate Allowances to other councillors undertaking duties which do not qualify for an SRA. The panel were aware that the taxation implications of this course of action would need to be investigated by the Council before a decision was taken on whether to pursue this.  The panel would have no objection to this being done provided that it would apply only to SRAs (and not to the Basic Allowance) and, for reasons of transparency, that any transfer of Allowances to another councillor be agreed and documented by the political group concerned (and not sanctioned through an informal arrangement made between individual councillors).

  

RECOMMENDATION 9: The panel recommend continuation of the following elements of the current Scheme of Members’ Allowances:

 

Allowances Paid to the two Non-Councillor Voting Members of the Avon Pension Fund Committee Approved in May 2006

Definitions of Approved Duties for which Expenses and Carer`s Allowances are payable

Travel and Subsistence Expenses

Carer Allowances

Avon Pension Fund arrangements for councillors’ pensions

Annual inflationary indexation of allowances.

 

RECOMMENDATION 10: The panel recommend that the Council decides the date on which the proposed amendments to the Scheme of Allowances set out in this report should take effect. There is the option either to implement them from 18th May 2007 (the day after the Annual General Meeting) or else to implement them from 14th September 2007 (the day after the Council meeting at which they are adopted). In deciding on this the Council should have regard to any cost or workload implications of backdating Allowance payments or recovering over-payments.

 

RECOMMENDATION 11: The panel invite the Council to consider whether, as the employee pay award for 2007 to which the inflationary uplift is linked has not yet been agreed, it wishes to move to the new Allowance rates for 2007/08 recommended in this report without applying any retrospective backdated inflationary uplift to the 2006/07 Allowances when the pay award is finalised. In deciding on this the Council should have regard to any cost or workload implications of backdating Allowance payments.

 

RECOMMENDATION 12: The panel would raise no objection to councillors who are entitled to SRAs deciding to forego all or part of those Allowances to enable them to be pooled in a collective pot from which their political group could allocate Allowances to other councillors undertaking duties which do not qualify for an SRA. The panel`s view is that, if this is done, then it should apply only to SRAs (and not to the Basic Allowance) and, for reasons of transparency, be agreed within the political group concerned (not through an arrangement made between individual councillors).

 

RECOMMENDATION 13: The panel consider that the Allowances recommended in this review should continue to apply for the life of this Council until the next Election in 2011, unless there are significant changes to roles or responsibilities made before then that would result in the Council inviting the panel to review the Allowances structure.

  

8.         RECOMMENDED ALLOWANCES IN FULL

 

            The full recommended Allowance levels are set out below, which if adopted, will form part of the Council’s Scheme of Allowances for Members.  The actual values of the panel`s recommendations are shown here at current year prices for 2007/08.

 

Basic Allowance

£6,850

Incidental Expenses Allowance (Non-taxable)

£600

Total Basic Allowance

£7,450

 

 

Special Responsibility Allowances:

 

Leader of the Council =

£29,112

Deputy Leader of the Council =

£23,975

Cabinet Members =

£23,975

Chairman of the Council =

£8,562

** Overview and Scrutiny Panel Chairs =

£8,562

** Chair of Development Control Committee =

£8,562

***Chair of Avon Pension Fund Committee =

£8,562

** Chairs of Licensing Sub-Committees =

£4,281

Councillor Members of Adoption and Permanence Panel =

£3,425

Political Group Leaders =

£400 per group member

Group Training Allocation =

£100 per group member

           

** All Allowances to Committee Chairs to be on condition that a permanent Chair is appointed for the Council Year and that there is no rotation of the Chair per meeting.

*** Avon Pension Fund Committee Chair`s SRA to be charged to Avon Pension Fund.

 

Dependants’ Carer’s Allowance

 

            Actual costs claimable up to a maximum of:

            £6.00 per hour per child/other dependant person

            £8.00 per hour per child with disability/special needs

            £8.00 per adult with disability/ill health.

 

            Mileage Allowances

 

Car Mileage Rates:

 

451/999cc

Above 999cc

39.7p

43.1p

 

Motorbike Mileage Rates:

 

Up to 150cc

Up to 500cc

Above 500cc

8.5p

12.3p

16.5p

           

Bicycle Mileage Rate:

 

            40p per mile

 

            Travel by Public Transport

            Bus, second class rail and taxi fares reimbursed at receipted cost.

 

            Subsistence Expenses

 

            No subsistence payable for duties within Bath and North East Somerset.  Reasonable subsistence reimbursed at receipted cost on approved duties undertaken outside the Council`s area where the duty undertaken is for a minimum period of four hours.

 

Non-Councillor Co-opted Voting Members of the Avon Pension Fund Committee***

 

Allowance of £6,000 per year for 2007/08 (inflationary uplift on the same basis as councillors` allowances).  Reasonable travel and subsistence expenses reimbursed at receipted cost.  ***All allowance and expenses costs charged to Avon Pension Fund.

 

Co-opted Members’ Allowance

 

That, except for the Avon Pension Fund co-opted members` allowances above, all other co-opted members of Council committees and panels be entitled to claim at receipted cost only travel and subsistence and carer’s allowance in accordance with the rates agreed for councillors as above.

  

Annual Inflationary Review

 

Basic and Special Responsibility Allowances (except the Group Training Allocation) to be uplifted annually by the same percentage rate as the local government employees` national pay award.

 

Car mileage rates to be reviewed annually to remain the same as the rates agreed nationally for local government employees (lower two car mileage bands).

 

All other rates to remain as shown without inflationary uplift.

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