Rotherham Council's elected members approve their five per cent pay rise
The increase on the £11,471-a-year basic allowance will be backdated to April this year.
A source suggested that the pay rise being backdated to April 2023 was added as an incentive for Labour members to support the move even if they have already been rejected as candidates for next year.
But RMBC leader Cllr Chris Read said: “I’ve been a councillor for 12 years and during that period of time we have taken three cash reductions in the payments made to councillors and never taken a cash increase.
“Members on all sides have rightly taken their share of austerity that has gripped local government and been imposed on all of us.
“None of us are here for the money, but equally it can’t be the case that only people with private incomes can afford to represent their communities.
“All of us incur a cost by being here, either in terms of our time or the responsibility that it puts upon us.”
Cllr Read pointed out that members had taken a “significant” cut on day one of his leadership in 2014 – at the height of the CSE scandal – and the total bill would now still be £200,000 below that cost that year.
“Since that day, just in terms of inflation, the allowances paid to councillors have lost 38 per cent of their value,” he added.
Cllr Michael Bennett Sylvester, independent, said he did not consider the remuneration panel independent.
“Whilst they are well-meaning and good people, we are talking about three people that very much have secure incomes, secure jobs, and don’t know what many of our citizens know of what it’s like if you ring in sick and lose three days’ work,” he added.
“When you take it per person we represent, our allowance is actually 20 per cent higher than the basic in Sheffield.
“I believe we have a massive disconnect with the people in this town. They look at us as being all the same.
“We need to put on hair shirts until we start to heal more of Rotherham’s wounds. We need to hold back.”
Tory group leader Cllr Simon Ball said: “At a time when council leaders, especially socialist ones, are standing up saying we must increase the council tax, and increase the burden on the people of Rotherham, we then cannot be putting our own allowances up, and it will be interesting to see what happens next year in the budget.
“This is not acceptable, I don’t think, to the taxpayers of Rotherham, and I will not be supporting this rise in the allowance.”
Labour’s Cllr Emma Hoddinott said bringing future increases in line with RMBC staff pay would avoid the topic being used as a “political football”.
Independent member Cllr Tracey Wilson pondered whether those voting against the rise would refuse to accept the extra cash in their pay packets.
Cllr Greg Reynolds, Conservatives, said the timing of the vote weeks before Christmas was “insensitive” and “inappropriate”.
Seventeen of RMBC’s 59 members voted against the pay rise, which was approved at the full council meeting last Wednesday (29).