Low response over Mid Sussex District coucillors’ pay review

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A ‘disappointingly low’ number of councillors had a say over how much money they will receive this year – a report has found.

Only 13 per cent of Mid Sussex District councillors responded to a consultation over members’ basic allowances.

Seven out of the 54 elected members at the council participated in the consultation.

Anthony Bellringer, of Burgess Hill is chairman of the independent panel for the review of members’ allowances which sets rates for councillors.

He said: “Our task was made rather more difficult this year by two things. Firstly, a disappointingly low rate of participation by members of council in our consultations with them, which produced a relatively small evidence base from which to formulate our recommendations.”

He also said members who did provide information – most of whom supported an increase to the basic allowance, ‘invariably’ followed with a comment like ‘of course no increase could be supported in an election year’.

“It is, of course, for the council itself to make a final decision on member allowances,” said Mr Bellinger.

“However, whilst recognizing the particular tensions of an election year in a time of continuing economic austerity, we would draw attention to the fact that all three panel members are themselves residents, taxpayers and electors of MSDC, and our recommendations should be viewed in that context.”

Councillors voted to reject a five per cent increase in the basic allowance which was recommended by the panel at a full council meeting on November 12.

Councillor Jonathan Ash-Edwards, said: “While the Mid Sussex economy has recovered strongly from the recession, many hardworking residents in Mid Sussex have been coping without a pay rise and it didn’t seem right for councillors to accept the recommended five per cent increase.

“Mid Sussex councillors have shown real leadership in freezing allowances and our latest freeze means basic allowances for Mid Sussex Councillors are the same as they were back in 2006.”

Members also agreed childcare allowance should be increased to £7.85 to encourage parents or carers to come forward as councillors.