Winchester civic chiefs set to forgo allowances increase

Winchester civic chiefs set to forgo allowances increase

Winchester civic chiefs set to forgo allowances increase

First published in News Hampshire Chronicle: Photograph of the Author by

WINCHESTER council chiefs have ruled out awarding themselves a pay increase this year.

A Cabinet report had recommended a general increase to allow for inflation.

But Conservative city council leader Keith Wood said allowances should be frozen along with staff wages in the current economic climate.

However petrol expenses are set to go up from 40p to 45p per mile in line with mileage rates recommended by the Inland Revenue.

Currently, backbench councillors receive a basic allowance of £5,580 per year. On top of this, Cabinet members are paid special responsibility allowances in the region of £7,000 and the council leader £15,576.

This will be the second year running allowances have been frozen and comes after a five per cent cut in 2011.

Yesterday, Cabinet unanimously backed Cllr Wood’s proposal but Councillor Ian Tait said elected members put in an “awful lot of work” and there were financial consequences.

He said allowances were a way of recognising the amount of time and energy councillors put into the role and encouraged people to “engage with the system.”

As previously reported, the £15.4m draft budget for 2013-14 will see council tax frozen for the second year running.

The Band D charge will remain at £126.27. By not increasing council tax, the local authority is able to claim a Government grant of £70,000 - equivalent to a one per cent increase.

Council chiefs are finding efficiency savings to help balance the budget after receiving a £450,000 cut in central funding. The council is responsible for services including refuse collection, housing, environmental health, planning and parks.

Cllr Wood said: “I think it is terrific we are able to decide that we are not going to increase council tax this year and keep services going.

“I think that really is quite an achievement. How long we can continue to do that is an issue. But for as long as we can make life reasonable for residents, I think we should carry on doing it.”

The full council will vote on the draft budget on February 21.

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