COUNCILLORS in one Gwent authority are unable to discuss proposals to raise their salaries by £800 a year as a committee chairman or woman role remains unfilled.
A row over who chairs the Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Democratic Services Committee rumbled on at a meeting of the authority on Wednesday October 26.
The opposition Independent group’s nomination to chair the committee, Cllr Julie Holt was offered the role during the summer – but refused it on “principle” due to Cllr Carl Bainton being selected to be vice-chairman.
Cllr Bainton sensationally switched over to the Labour group within a couple of days of being successfully elected to the Ebbw Vale South ward at the local elections in May, as an independent.
Cllr Wayne Hodgins said: “We do need to have the committee set; we are at an impasse – how are we going to sort it out?”
Council leader, Cllr Steve Thomas said: “It will certainly need to meet for the next remuneration panel report that needs to go to council.”
The committee is required to discuss the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales’ (IRPW) plans to increase the annual basic salary for all county councillors in Wales from £14,368 to £16,800
This 17 per cent increase caused anguish for councillors who were uncomfortable taking the hefty pay rise when the cost-of-living crisis is affecting so many Blaenau Gwent residents.
Last month the IRPW proposed that the basic salary goes up by a further 4.76 per cent for the 2023/24 financial year.
This would takes councillors basic pay up to £17,600.
Councils across Wales have until December 1 to respond to the IRPW’s draft annual report which will be finalised next February.
The council’s head of legal services, Andrea Jones said: “I’m preparing a legal briefing note for the group leaders on this, which sets out some options.”
Cllr Thomas offered the chair to councillors from the opposition and said he was ready to receive fresh nominations for the role from Independent group leader, Cllr Joanna Wilkins.
“Any member of the minority group who wants to take the chair, please come forward,” said Cllr Thomas.
Cllr Hodgins, who is the deputy leader of the Independent group said: “With the greatest of respect, we have made our nomination and at this point we stick by that.”
Cllr Thomas said: “But the person nominated didn’t want to go forward for personal reasons, which is fine.
“Any other member who wants to come forward please let me know.”
Cllr Wilkins said: “This is not the time and place for this discussion, the group stance has been made very clear.”