Allowances and expenses in the public sector have been a talking point (to put it mildly) for a few years now, but the story never seems to fade. Today, David Laws has been suspended from Parliament over previous expenses claims. It all got me thinking, how do expenses work at a local level?
The Local Authorities (Members’ Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003 is the leading legislation on the subject and allows local authorities to create allowances in the following areas:
Special responsibility allowance
Special responsibility allowance for members of the Association of London Government
Dependants’ carers’ allowance
Travelling and subsistence allowance
However, it provides no clear answers or indication as to what a sensible amount for allowances in specific areas would be. Instead, it leaves that responsibility to each individual local authority to publish a Member’s Allowances scheme every year.
Unlike parliamentary allowances therefore, the amount claimable may differ depending on which council you serve, and area of the country you live.
I did a few google searches, such as “Ëœmembers allowances council’ “Ëœmembers basic allowances’ etc and compiled a random list of 18 UK authorities plus Stoke-on-Trent Council and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council. I located the 20 schemes and drew up a quick list to compare basic allowances given to councillors per annum.
Cornwall Council – £12,128
Stoke City Council – £11,000
Wandsworth – £10,596
Hackney Council – £9,943
Leicester City Council – £9,829
Stevenage City Council – £7,124
Woking District – £7,115
Eastleigh Borough – £5,685
As you can see, there is a massive range in basic allowances for councillors across the UK, and while searching, I noticed some massive inconsistencies between other unitary authorities (like Stoke-on-Trent) regarding other allowances.
So I decided to take a closer look at how Stoke-on-Trent City Council stacks up against some other unitary authorities. The other three I compared Stoke with were randomly picked from a list of unitary authorities.
To clarify, carers allowance covers expenses incurred typically (but it all depends on the individual council) by babysitters and care for the elderly.
Basic Allowance £11,000
Cabinet Member + £11,000
Council Leader + £33,000
Lunch – £6.17
Car Travel per mile – up to 59p depending on cc
Carers Allowance ““ minimum wage
Band A Council Tax £925.87
Basic Allowance £12,128
Cabinet Member + £16,701
Council Leader + £22,532
Lunch – £9.05
Car Travel per mile – 40p per mile
Carers Allowance ““ Full receipt reimbursed plus £5.80 p/h
Band A Council Tax (approx.) £980
Basic Allowance £5,999
Cabinet Member + £5,999
Council Leader + £20,999
Lunch – £8.61
Car Travel per mile ““ up to 62p per mile depending on cc
Carers Allowance ““ £7.99 per hour
Band A Council Tax £982
ISLE OF WIGHT COUNCIL
Basic Allowance + £7,903
Cabinet Member + £11,854
Council Leader + £23,709
Lunch – £6.95
Car Travel per mile ““ 40p
Carers Allowance ““ £4.93 per hour
Band A Council Tax approx. £975
Cabinet Member: Basic Allowance plus Special Responsibility Allowance
Cornwall Council Cabinet Member: £28,829pa
Stoke-on-Trent Cabinet Member: £22,000pa
Isle of Wight Cabinet Member: £19,757pa
Blackpool Cabinet Member: £11,998pa
Even in this small sample of 4 unitary authorities, there is a wide range of differences. It’s important to remember though, different councils face different challenges and its members will have different views on where money is best spent in their area. And of course, different councils have different ruling parties/ political influences.
It appears our Council Leader must be doing a very good job to deserve his above average salary. So I added a few more unitary authority council leaders’ annual allowances (members plus special allowances) to check the trend:
Stoke-on-Trent Council Leader: £44,000pa
Plymouth Council Leader: £40,176pa
Cornwall Council Leader: £34,660pa
Shropshire Council Leader £34,542pa
Isle of Wight Council Leader: £31,612pa
Blackpool Council Leader: £26,999pa
Reading Council Leader: £16,321pa
I haven’t got breakdowns of each council’s incomes but considering in Stoke, council tax is well below the UK average, and the income all goes into the same pot – it’s interesting to note that we seem to be paying well above average for our Council Leader. We pay less tax than others on average but spend more on our Council Leader.
The differences between allowances are almost endless. For example, in Westminster, councillors get £1000 extra per year for IT allowances but there is no reference to such an allowance in Stoke-on-Trent.
To look into council Members Allowances schemes yourself, the best route I found is to find their website and search for either their constitution or simply “Ëœmembers allowances’ and you should get a result. Be sure to check the dates of the documents you refer to though.