Arun council leader could be paid almost £2,000 extra a year

Arun District Council leader Gillian Brown SUS-150316-153557001
Arun District Council leader Gillian Brown SUS-150316-153557001

Arun District Council’s leader is set to receive nearly £2,000 a year extra if recommendations are supported.

Conservative Gillian Brown currently receives £14,196 in special responsibility allowance (SRA) a year but this could rise to £16,122 if she continues to lead the authority after May’s elections.

A report from the Independent Remuneration Panel suggested the current SRA paid to the leader was ‘unacceptably low’.

It said: “It is important to adequately reward the leader so that strong candidates are attracted to what is a high profile and demanding job. We do believe that the leader’s SRA should reflect not only the increased time but also the increased responsibilities of the role.”

The report described how the role of the leader has changed in recent years, placing more responsibility in their hands, with the number of hours worked equivalent at least to a full-time job.

Looking at data for the South East for 2018 although Arun’s basic rate was around the average, at 40th out of 75 authorities, the leader’s SRA was 49th.

The report is due to be discussed by the council’s audit and governance committee on Thursday February 14.

Currently the council’s basic allowance (BA) paid to all councillors is £5,734 a year. Since 2010 this has been linked to increases in officers’ pay.

A rise of two per cent will be added in May, taking the BA to £5,849.

As part of its work the panel sent a questionnaire to all members to complete anonymously, with 24 out of 54 councillors responding, a threefold increase on three years ago.

The panel also met with the leader and deputy leader, cabinet members, and other holders of SRAs including committee chairmen and vice chairmen, resulting in 18 interviews.

The report said: “Many interviewees were of the opinion that Arun DC’s rate for the leader seemed low.”

The other main recommended change is to increase the SRA for the chairman of the development control committee from £6,000 to £7,500, a rise of £1,500 a year.

The vice-chairman’s SRA would rise by £520 from £1,980 to £2,500.

The report noted the amount of housebuilding going on in Arun meant more large and highly complex projects coming to committee ‘generating significantly high public interest, some of which is hostile’.

This meant the chairman of the committee, currently Ricky Bower, ‘has a very responsible, demanding and high-profile job’.

The report added: “The public meetings are well attended and the atmosphere is tense as many of those attending are directly affected by and often opposed to the developments under consideration.

“Now the proceedings are webcast live. In addition, the chairman and vice chairman attend briefing meetings with officers and most members of the committee undertake site inspections.”

Other main recommended changes are a reduction in the chairman of the licensing committee’s SRA from £4,000 to £2,000 and the vice-chairman from £1,200 to £600.

The chairman of the standards committee’s SRA would drop from £1,500 to £1,000.

Meanwhile the SRA paid to the leader of the largest opposition group, currently the Lib Dems, would be reduced by £167 from £3,917 to £3,750 a year.