Row over decision to approve rise in Calderdale councillors' allowances

Calderdale councillors have approved a rise in their allowances, which is linked to the rise which local government staff will receive, debate sparking a political row.
Council chamber at Halifax town hallCouncil chamber at Halifax town hall
Council chamber at Halifax town hall

Leader of the Conservative group Coun Steven Leigh (Ryburn) said his group would not be supporting the allowance although he acknowledged Calderdale councillors’ allowances were not the highest.

But the Conservatives were accused of making “cheap political points” by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors who argued not everyone was in a position to forego the rise.

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At full council, Coun Leigh said the allowances Calderdale councillors received was not the highest.

“However, we will be opposing this proposal because we just don’t think this is the right time. We don’t agree with it and we think allowances should be left alone,” he said.

However, Coun Mike Barnes (Lab, Skircoat) said he was not prepared to take the rise – but those who needed it should have it.

It was also interesting that members who had voted for the increase at committee were now voting against it, he said.

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“Those of us who are privileged to enough not to need this, don’t take it.

“However, we have to recognise that there are other members in the chamber who actually need it, members who have to have extra child care, members who have to pay for carers to look after loved ones, while they are on council business.

“Those are the individuals we should be respecting tonight and not making cheap political points,” said Coun Barnes.

Coun James Baker, Liberal Democrat group leader (Warley) said there was a danger allowances would fall below a level where people thought they could afford to be a councillor, councillors had for several years now voted to freeze them, and not everyone could afford not to take the increase, which would be around two per cent, less than the rate of inflation.

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“Because they are not in a privileged enough position to be able to make some grandiose sacrifice for taking a couple of per cent pay rise, they are made to feel bad about it.

“I think that’s really unfortunate, that this has turned into a political debate,” he said.

Coun Felicity Issott (Con, Ryburn) said councillors could not complain about a cost of living crisis and on the other hand contribute to it by asking for more money.

Coun Helen Rivron (Lab, Ovenden) said she had sat through a lot of debates on allowances over the years and none were edifying – there had been times when she did not need the rise and others when she did.

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It was right it should be linked to the pay rises, or not, staff received, to take the issue out of the political arena – if theirs was frozen, so were councillors’ allowances, she said.

A majority of councillors agreed with the recommendations of the council’s Standards Committee, which in addition to the increase also included a review of the process.

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