WIGAN politicians today voiced their views on the claim that “low” allowances deter younger councillors from entering the town hall.
The cross-party Local Government Select Committee recommended this week that elected members had a right to expect an “appropriate level of compensation” and that was the correct way to lower the 60 year old average age of councillors currently standing.
The Committee, chaired by Labour’s Clive Betts, also found that while potential councillors were put off from standing for office by low allowances, current councillors were reluctant to vote for increases because of the potential for backlash from voters and the public.
Recommendations to raise local councillors’ allowances were not opposed by either of the Tory MPs on the committee.
However Tory Party chairman Grant Shapps later caused a row by claiming that the reason Labour MPs were supporting raising allowances for councillors was because it’s councillors also donated some of the “pay” to the party.
Labour hit back accusing him of scoring a “massive own goal” because of the non-party consensus reached by the committee.
Wigan’s basic councillor allowance of £6,400 was decided by an independent tribunal and nationwide it varies from a couple of thousand pounds a year to more than £20,000.
Wigan’s leader of the council Lord Smith said: “We are fortunate to have a number of younger people coming forward to join the council.
“The allowances paid to Wigan members are determined by an independent panel of experts who take into account such issues.
“This is the right process and we certainly don’t intend to have members deciding who gets paid what.”
But leader of the opposition, WIN councillor Gary Wilkes said that while he supported the fact members should be paid an allowance for the work they do, he would not like to see career politicians representing the community.
He said: “Being a local council is a part time role and we should not be paid more than the average wage for doing this role.
“What I am disappointed in is, the lack of young people who get involved with local politics, perhaps we should advertise in the local job centre for more people to come forward to become a local council you don’t need any qualifications and all you need is to be in of 18 years old and live in or work in borough.”
Chairman of Wigan Conservative Federation Michael Winstanley said: “As someone who was a Councillor for 11 years and had a full time job during that time I know at first hand the time commitment and dedication that is required to be a councillor if you are putting the full commitment into the role.
“The report focused on increasing councillors allowances but I don’t believe that this is the right way to attract working people into the role of a councillor. It is also disappointing to note that the Labour Party deduct money at source from their councillors so the more they get the more the Labour Party get.
“With them ever more dependent on trade union funding you can appreciate that they will be desperate for this to go through.”