Gwent councillors express discomfort over payrise during cost-of-living crisis

BLAENAU Gwent councillors say they feel “uncomfortable” receiving a pay rise during the cost of living crisis.

At meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council on Thursday, March 30 the councillors noted the decisions of the Independent Remuneration Panel of Wales (IRPW), to increase councillors salary all across Wales from April 1.

The report explains that the IRPW met in February and confirmed that the basic salary will go up by 4.76 per cent, which equates to £800 for the 2023/24 financial year.

This will take councillors basic pay up to £17,600.

Increases would also be made to the salary of the leader, deputy leader and cabinet members on top of the basic rise.

This is to reflect the levels of extra responsibility they have.

Blaenau Gwent’s Democratic Services committee had looked at the proposals at their meeting on Monday.

The meeting had been chaired by opposition leader, Cllr Joanna Wilkins.

Cllr Wilkins said: “This comes up year-on-year, and committee felt very much uncomfortable with the rises but accepted the recommendations in the report in order to come to full council for discussion.”

An eight-week consultation on the draft proposals took place last year from October 6 to December 1.

At a council meeting in November Blaenau Gwent councillors said that they were “unhappy” with the IRPW proposals especially given the financial “dark times” the country is experiencing.

Due to the cost of living crisis Blaenau Gwent councillors unanimously agreed to tell the IRPW that their pay “should be frozen” to its current level.

In their report IRPW chairwoman Frances Duffy said: “Overall, the responses supported the panel’s determinations and so no changes have been made.”

Reflecting on this, council leader, Cllr Steve Thomas said: “What we asked for was not adhered to.

“Clearly from the report I see we were in the minority.”

“We can’t take any other decision than to note the report.”

Noting the report was unanimously approved by councillors.

The reason the IRPW try and set a fair salary is in the hope that councillors can be found from all backgrounds including those who may also work full time.

In 2022 the IRPW decided to give councillors all over Wales a £2,432 rise after they reinstated the link between councillors’ salary and the Annual Survey of Hourly Earnings (ASHE), which is published by the Office of National Statistics. (ONS).

The smaller rise this year is to allow the changes from last year to “bed in.”

The salary changes to leader, deputy leader and cabinet member and committee chairman/chairwoman proposed by the IRPW are:

Leader – £56,100 up from £53,550.

Deputy leader – £39,2750 up from £37,485.

Cabinet members – £33,660 up from £32,130.

Committee chairman/chairwoman – £26,400 up from £25,593.

Leader of the largest opposition group – £26,400 up from £25,593.

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