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North Yorkshire councillors approve pay increase for themselves

Councillors have overwhelmingly voted in favour of approving a pay increase for themselves after being told rejecting it could hamper improving diversity in favour of white, retired men on the authority. A full meeting of Conservative-led North Yorkshire County Council saw 60 of its 72 members agree to a 1.75 per cent uplift in their basic allowances to £10,316 from April, two members abstaining and two members oppose the move. The rise, which is below the national three per cent rate of inflation in September, had been recommended to the councillors by an independent panel, which concluded the increase was needed “to retain the balance between public duty and a realistic recompense for the time given up, plus commitment and responsibility in undertaking the role”. It said despite an increase of almost ten per cent in councillors’ allowances since April 2017, 11 of the 16 comparable county councils paid their elected members more than North Yorkshire. While the majority of North Yorkshire county councillors are close to or above retirement age, just 19 of its members are women. Independent Skipton councillor Andy Solloway said while metropolitan and even parish councils featured diverse membership, the incoming North Yorkshire authority was facing “the very real danger of it being 100 per cent white, 90 per cent male and 80 per cent people of retirement age”. To improve democratic representation, he called on the political groups to carefully select their candidates for the new authority. The authority’s leader Councillor Carl Les said:

“No one should feel unable to stand for election for whatever reason.  There should be no financial barrier to people standing for public office.”
He said while the overall cost of paying allowances to about 90 members of the new authority would be over and above the amount the county council was currently paying its elected members, that would be offset against district councils no longer having that expense. Coun Les called on the authority to accept the panel’s recommendation on the proviso that councillors could chose whether they took none, part or all of the 1.7 per cent increase. Leader of the authority’s Labour group Councillor Eric Broadbent told the meeting that with many North Yorkshire families struggling financially Labour members had decided to accept the increase and give it to the North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund (NYLAF). He claimed if all elected members did the same it would generate money to bring struggling families out of poverty. Fellow Labour councillor Tony Randerson added:
“This is not a cheap political point, it is something we feel very strongly about and very sincerely about. For those people who are struggling it would be a massive help if this proposal could find favour.”
The meeting heard the council’s Stronger Communities executive member Councillor David Chance pledge that NYLAF was already funded sufficiently to ensure that anyone facing a crisis could be supported. The authority’s finance boss Councillor Gareth Dadd said many councillors already forego their full allowances or donated part of it to charity “but do not feel the need to advertise it”. Coun Les concluded the Labour proposal presented a danger of binding the new authority. He added:
“We need diversity across the political spectrum and I do hope my party will play its part in delivering that diversity.”
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.

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