Pressure increases on councillors to justify 34% allowance increase

Date published: 10 January 2017

As a petition to block the controversial 34% increase in councillors allowances nears 1,500, pressure is increasing on local councillors to explain their backing of the move by angry residents.

In December, councillors approved a recommendation by an Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) to increase their allowances by 34%, and by 51% for Leader of the Council Richard Farnell. Now, people across the borough are being encouraged to contact their councillors to get their explanations for approving the increase.

An online petition, demanding that the move is not implemented until the number of councillors in Rochdale in reduced from 60 to 40, has gathered 1,489 signatures. This will be presented at the full council meeting on 1 March by councillors Andrew Kelly and Irene Davidson, the only two councillors to vote against the IRP recommendation.

Healey resident Robert McLean, who stood as a Conservative candidate in Littleborough Lakeside in last year’s local elections, now wants residents to contact their councillors directly and believes this will keep up pressure gained by the online petition and hold councillors to account.

He said: “The outrage has been clear since December when the decision was made. A lot of people have been saying they wanted to do something but didn’t have an outlet.”

Emails have been sent to councillors in 13 wards, and Mr McLean is confident that all councillors in Rochdale will be contacted for a response. He said: “We have contacted every councillor in 12 wards so far, but only Councillor Andrew Kelly has responded and we know his opinion already. I’m not surprised that nobody else has replied.”

Mr McLean is encouraging concerned residents to ask their councillors how they can justify a 34% increase to allowances while also making savings to the overall council budget.

He argued: “I’m not opposed to the allowances system, just the timing and amount of the increase. They want to add nearly £200,000 to the budget at a time when they need to cut £200,000. They’re cutting jobs to pay themselves. It doesn’t make logical political sense.

“I honestly believe the councillors think the decision will be forgotten. It won’t be, because there’s a lot of angry people. I don’t think it’ll be changed, but they need to know their decision will come back to them at every cut.

“We don’t need 60 councillors in Rochdale, and having two per ward rather than three would save cash. The increase in allowances should have been on the condition that the number of councillors will be reduced, but I don’t think that will happen either.”

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