Boston Borough Councillors push for equal allowances

Boston Borough Council OfficesBoston Borough Council Offices
Boston Borough Council Offices
Boston Borough Councillors have called for an increase in their allowances to match those of their two partner authorities.

Out of the seven district councils across Lincolnshire, Boston Borough Council was found to have the lowest basic allowance for members, at just £4,692 per year in 2023.

Although there has been a small increase in recent months, Boston Borough Council’s rates remain below the other two councils in the South & East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership – East Lindsey District Council and South Holland District Council, which have members’ allowances of £4,984 and £6,255 per year respectively.

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Councillor Ralph Pryke (Liberal Democrat) highlighted that when he was elected in 2022, officers at the Local Government Association (LGA) informed him that Boston had some of the lowest allowances in the whole of England and Wales.

Cllr Tom Smith | Photo: James TurnerCllr Tom Smith | Photo: James Turner
Cllr Tom Smith | Photo: James Turner

While noting that efforts are underway behind the scenes to increase members’ allowances, the local Liberal Democrat pointed out that his current compensation is below the national minimum wage.

“I toyed with how many hours I did with council work. I am sure I am paid far less than the minimum wage,” said Cllr Pryke.

He went on to compare his allowance to Lambeth London Borough Council, which earlier this year voted to approve a 32.8% increase in member allowances to £15,960 per year.

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“I don’t think councillors in metropolitan areas like Lambeth do any more work than councillors in ours.

Councillor Stephen Woodliffe. Photo: Daniel JainesCouncillor Stephen Woodliffe. Photo: Daniel Jaines
Councillor Stephen Woodliffe. Photo: Daniel Jaines

“Most of us would like a raise, surprise, surprise!” he added.

Independent Councillor Stephen Woodliffe insisted that the allowances should be “equitable” across all three district councils in the partnership, specifically noting South Holland District Council’s “much higher” amounts due to it being a larger area.

Councillor Woodliffe remarked: “Because we’re in a partnership, we really need to level this out.

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“We can’t really have three different rates of pay for the same job.”

Councillor Ralph Pryke (Liberal Democrat) | Photo: James TurnerCouncillor Ralph Pryke (Liberal Democrat) | Photo: James Turner
Councillor Ralph Pryke (Liberal Democrat) | Photo: James Turner

Conservative Party leader Claire Rylott, while agreeing on the need for consistency, expressed concerns about raising allowances. She stressed that these are reimbursements for expenses incurred during council duties, not salaries.

“Whether it is right or wrong, there will be outrage from residents by us exploring these allowances, but I fully agree with Councillor Woodliffe in that all three councils should be on a par.”

Councillor Woodliffe later concurred that lower allowances discourage younger generations from entering local democracy.

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“I’m retired, so I’m in a privileged position,” he explained, but those working full-time jobs while dedicating three to four hours a week to council work could lose pension benefits.

“Allowances shouldn’t be a restriction on who runs for council,” he added.Councillor Thomas Smith (Conservative), who serves on both Lincolnshire County Council and West Lindsey, which offers the highest allowance in the region at £11,248 per annum, believes a competitive allowance is crucial in attracting younger people to local democracy.

“There’s a balance of course, it doesn’t want to be overly generous because that’s wrong – it’s the public purse that’s funding it,” said Councillor Smith.

Ultimately, that’s down to each independent panel to assess what they deem is appropriate and each council is different.”

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A spokesperson from the council responded: “Like all councils, Boston Borough Council has an Independent Remuneration Panel to make recommendations to it about the allowances to be paid to Members.“

“The panel makes recommendations about the level of basic allowances, special responsibility allowances, dependant carers’ allowances, travel and subsistence allowances and co-optees allowances.

“These recommendations go before Full Council which can be accepted, refused or amended.

“The review process involves analysing local and national comparative information, considering the time commitment required for a Ward Councillor role, evaluating roles which are eligible for special responsibility allowances and the responsibilities attached to them.“

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“The Independent Remuneration Panel last reviewed the Members’ Allowances Scheme for Boston Borough Council in 2022.“

“At the Annual Meeting on Monday 20 May 2024, the Council agreed to the temporary appointment of two panel members to fill existing vacancies to enable the Panel to meet in the near future with a view to conducting a review of allowances and making recommendations to Full Council later this year.”