Allowance increases hit budgets at Mid Suffolk and Babergh councils
Allowance increases for Mid Suffolk District councillors have left an £89,000 gap in the budget, after the rise was backdated to May 2017.
The council agreed in June to increase the basic allowance by 25 per cent, from £4,000 to £5,000, following a recommendation by an independent panel.
Senior councillors said they had not had an rise in four years and the level of work had increased, while allowances for cabinet members also jumped from £2,000 to £6,250.
Babergh District Council approved the same increases, but only Mid Suffolk has backdated it to May 2017.
Now, opposition councillors have expressed concern after Mid Suffolk admitted the decision has resulted in an £89,000 budget overspend.
“It does cause concern and that’s why we would rather see that money spent on something like planning policy or planning officers – to help with the current issues we have got,” said Rachel Eburne, opposition group leader.
Green party councillors, who opposed the rise during the Mid Suffolk vote, said they were told it would cost £66,000.
Both councils increased their budgets by £70,000 for this year to cover the cost but Mid Suffolk overspent this by £14,000, with a further £75,000 hole caused by the decision to backdate it a year.
Babergh opted not to backdate it to May last year, but still overspent by £15,000.
Mid Suffolk decided to backdate so the increase would take effect from a change to leader and cabinet governance, which meant more responsibility for those members, according to cabinet member for finance John Whitehead.
“The basic allowance for councillors was relatively low for the amount of work involved," he said.
"Adopting the ‘leader and cabinet’ model of governance has meant those members have a heavier workload and more responsibility and it is only right that this is recognised."
Meanwhile, Mid Suffolk and Babergh missed the July 31 deadline for publishing their audited accounts.
A spokesman for the councils said: “This year we have had two months less to prepare the accounts and for them to be audited and we also had the requirement to prepare group accounts for the first time."
He said the audit was ongoing and should be completed by the end of the month, but was unable to give information on any possible additional fees incurred as a result.