Agenda and minutes

Member Remuneration Panel
Wednesday, 25th January, 2012 5.30 pm

Venue: Group Room - Room 1.19 - Civic Offices. View directions

Contact: Graham Lunnun, The Office of the Chief Executive  Email:  democraticservices@eppingforestdc.gov.uk Tel 01992 564244

Items
No. Item

1.

CHAIRMAN

To elect a Chairman for the meeting.

Minutes:

            RESOLVED:

 

            That Ms R Kelly be elected Chairman for the meeting.

 

2.

MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING pdf icon PDF 30 KB

Attached for consideration.

Minutes:

            RESOLVED:

 

            That the minutes of the meeting held on 3 February 2011 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.

 

3.

MEMBER ROLE ACCOUNTABILITY STATEMENTS pdf icon PDF 14 KB

The attached Member Role Accountability Statements have been adopted by the Council and are referred to the Panel to assist in making future recommendations regarding the amounts of allowances.  The Panel has previously discussed the possibility of undertaking a form of job evaluation of the various roles.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Panel received Member Role Accountability Statements which had been adopted by the Council and had been referred to the Panel to assist in making future recommendations regarding the amounts of allowances.

 

The Panel agreed that the Statements would be useful in future if there was a need to undertake a form of job evaluation of various member roles.

 

4.

MEMBERS' ALLOWANCES - REVIEW pdf icon PDF 80 KB

         To consider the attached report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Panel was advised that following consideration of its report in 2011, the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee had requested that the following aspects be reviewed:

 

(a)        the special responsibility allowance payable to the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in the light of proposed changes to reporting at Council meetings;

 

(b)        the IT Connectivity Allowance; eligibility and payment levels;  and

 

(c)        review of the wording in respect of an assessment of hours worked by Councillors as a basis for calculating the basic allowance by reference to the national minimum wage.

 

(a)        SRA – Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee

 

The Panel was advised that the SRA for the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had traditionally been the same as the basic allowance (£4,300 per annum in the approved scheme with implementation currently being an amount of £3,150 per annum).  It noted that this compared with the SRA for a portfolio holder of £6,450 in the approved scheme with implementation currently being £6,300 per annum.

 

The Panel was informed that the SRA for the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had been queried by members in the context of recent changes to the Council's Constitution providing for Scrutiny Panel Chairmen, rather than the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Chairman, to present the reports from Panels at full Council meetings.

 

The Panel considered the report submitted to the Council on 13 December 2011 which had led to the change in the Constitution. 

 

The Panel took the view that any reduction in the SRA would imply a reduction in the responsibilities/time commitment of the Overview and Scrutiny Chairman.  The Panel concluded that the change which had taken place had not reduced the responsibilities/time commitment of the Chairman and amounted to an administrative change only. 

 

            RESOLVED:

 

            That the Council be recommended to make no change to the SRA for the Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee in the light of the changes in reporting on Overview and Scrutiny matters at Council meetings.

 

(b)       IT Connectivity Allowance

 

The Panel was advised that some Overview and Scrutiny members had queried why the Council should continue to pay this sum at a time when the vast majority of councillors had the required access to the Internet in their homes.  The Panel noted that members had also suggested the amounts of this allowance were arbitrary and the link between these payments and Connectivity training courses had been queried.

 

The Panel recalled that the sum of £500 per annum payable to members in their first year of office was expected to assist them with the cost of a personal computer (if necessary), internet connection and any consumables.  The payment of £250 per annum in subsequent years was designed to assist with the cost of consumable items for the computer.  The Panel discussed the Member Connectivity Scheme and the views expressed by members.  The Panel noted that members had also expressed some interest in electronic (rather than paper) agenda despatch linked to handheld mobile  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

TRAVEL EXPENSES - CAR TRAVEL

(a)   Approved Duties

 

The current Members’ Remuneration Scheme specifies approved duties for the purpose of the payment of travelling and subsistence expenses. The list of duties includes “attendance at any meeting or other official function at the request of the Chief Executive, Deputy Chief Executive or a Service Director including meetings between group representatives for a particular committee and officers.”

 

The Panel is asked to consider an addition to the list of approved duties as follows in order to reflect meetings attended by Portfolio Holders and others in receipt of Special Responsibility Allowances, not necessarily at the request of those officers specified above –

 

“Consultation and briefing meetings at the request of officers by members of the Cabinet or others members in receipt of a Special Responsibility Allowance.”

 

If the Panel is minded to recommend this inclusion, consideration should also be given as to whether Assistant Portfolio Holders should be entitled to claim since they are being encouraged to shadow Portfolio Holders although they do not receive any Special Responsibility Allowance at present. 

 

(b) Rates for travel by Car

 

The Council’s current Members’ Remuneration Scheme provides that the normal rates for car travel are the same as the higher rates paid to officers classed as casual users. The officer rates are reviewed annually at national level by the Joint Council for Local Government Services.

 

Currently the rates are:

 

Use of a vehicle not exceeding 999cc – 46.9p per mile

Use of vehicle 1000cc – 1199cc – 52.2p per mile

Use of vehicle exceeding 1199cc – 65p per mile

 

Members receive a tax free approved amount when using their own vehicles. Currently the “Approved Mileage Allowance Payments” (tax free amounts)  are 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles. Similar provisions apply to officers.

 

Tax is therefore payable in all three categories. One member who was entitled to 65p per mile has signed a written statement  stating that she will restrict all of her claims to 45p per mile (or higher in line with any future increased tax free amounts) in order to avoid payment of tax on the expenses she receives for using her vehicle to Council meetings etc.  Several authorities have adopted this rate for members and officers for all classes of vehicle.

 

The Panel is asked if it wishes to pursue this approach in relation to all member claims. If it does there will need to be discussions with members about whether the members’ rates should be different from officers or whether consultations should take place with staff representatives about applying the approved mileage allowance payments to staff  as well.         

Minutes:

(a)        Approved Duties

 

The Panel was advised that the current Members' Remuneration Scheme specified approved duties for the purpose of the payment of travelling and subsistence expenses.  The Panel noted that the list of duties included "attendance at any meeting or other official function at the request of the Chief Executive, Deputy Chief Executive or a Service Director including meetings between group representatives for a particular committee and officers".

 

The Panel considered an addition to the list to reflect meetings attended by councillors at the invitation of other officers.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

            That the Council be recommended to amend paragraph 1(e) of Schedule 2 to the Members' Allowances Scheme to read:

 

            "Attendance at any meeting or other official function at the request of the Chief Executive, Deputy Chief Executive, a Service Director or an Assistant Director, including meetings between group representatives for a particular committee and officers".

 

(b)       Rates of Travel by Car

 

The Panel was informed that the Council's current scheme provided that the normal rates for car travel were the same as the higher rates paid to officers classed as casual users.  These rates were reviewed annually at national level by the Joint Council for Local Government Services.

 

The Panel was advised that members received a tax free approved amount when using their own vehicles.  Currently the "approved mileage allowance payments" (tax free amounts) were 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles.  The Panel noted that the current rates paid to members were in excess of the tax free amounts.

 

The Panel was informed that one member who had been entitled to the rate of 65p per mile in accordance with the Council’s scheme had signed a written statement stating that she wished to restrict all of her future claims to 45p per mile (or higher in line with any future increased tax free amounts) in order to avoid payment of tax on the expenses she received for using her vehicle to Council meetings, etc.  The Panel considered whether to make a recommendation suggesting that this approach be applied to all member claims.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

            That having regard to the ability of a member to forego any part of entitlement to an allowance or expense, no change be recommended to the current rates of travel by car.

 

6.

JOINT REMUNERATION PANEL

To note that in September 2011, Tendring District Council sought the views of other Essex District/Borough Councils on the “sharing” of an Independent Remuneration Panel.

 

Informal views were sought from members of the Council and officers comprising the  Council’s Corporate Governance Group and the consensus was that unless some demonstrable benefits can be identified in terms of savings/efficiency there is unlikely to be support for the idea having regard to :

 

(a) the current benefits of local knowledge of Panel members in the way the Council operates; the need for Panel members to devote considerably more time to a joint Panel;

(b) the logistics of arranging/holding meetings of a joint Panel;

(c ) the limited costs currently associated with this Council's Panel;

(d) the practicality of covering the requirements for the parish/town councils in the district which have or want a remuneration scheme.

 

Tendring were asked to keep us informed of developments but no further communication has been received.

Minutes:

The Panel noted that in September 2011 Tendring District Council had sought the views of other Essex District/Borough Councils on the "sharing" of an Independent Remuneration Panel.  Officers advised that informal views from been had sought from senior members of the Council and the Council's officer Corporate Governance Group and the consensus was that unless some demonstrable benefits could be identified in terms of savings/efficiency there was unlikely to be support for the idea.

 

            RESOLVED:

 

            That the response to the approach from Tendring District Council be noted.

 

7.

BASIS OF MEMBERS' ALLOWANCES pdf icon PDF 287 KB

To note that at its meeting on 1 November 2011 the Council resolved:

           

           That this Council calls on the Government, through the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to amend the rules on Councillors’ remuneration in order that:

 

            (a)        potential candidates who are in receipt of state benefits are able to seek election without placing those state benefits at risk if elected; and

 

            (b)        remuneration is based on a combination of attendance and basic allowance”.

 

 

 

 

A copy of the letter sent to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is attached.

 

A response has been received thanking the Council for its views but stating that the suggestion will not be pursued.

Minutes:

The Panel noted that at its meeting on 1 November 2011 the Council had resolved:

 

"That this Council calls on the Government, through the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to amend the rules on Councillors' remuneration in order that:

 

(a)        potential candidates who are in receipt of State Benefits are able to seek election without placing those State Benefits at risk if elected;  and

 

(b)        remuneration is based on a combination of attendance and basic allowance".

 

The Panel also noted that a reply had been received stating that the Government had no plans at present to change the rules on allowances. 

 

8.

DATE OF NEXT MEETING

Minutes:

            RESOLVED:

 

            That the next meeting be held on a date to be agreed.