A possible £9,000 a year rise in the leader of the county council’s special responsibility allowance is to be discussed straight after proposed library closures next week.
As part of the recommendations from the Independent Remuneration Panel, Conservative Keith Glazier would receive £34,400 per annum up from the current figure of £25,113, while all councillors’ basic allowance would also increase from £11,303 to £12,300 a year.
Extra costs would be met by savings made as a result of councillors being excluded from the local government pension scheme.
A consultation on the library service’s strategic commissioning strategy, which includes shutting seven of 24 libraries in East Sussex, is set to be approved by the county council’s Cabinet on Tuesday (September 19).
But on the same day the authority’s Governance Committee will discuss the IRP’s recommendations after a review of members’ allowances.
A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said, “The suggested increase in members’ allowances is the recommendation of an independent panel.
“The recommended increase would not cost the taxpayer any more as it would be offset by savings made as a result of councillors being excluded from the local government pension scheme.
“Members allowances are always going to be a contentious issue, but the independent panel recognised the commitment and work involved in being an effective councillor standing for election and representing their community.
“The panel was of the view that increasing the allowance would encourage a greater cross-section of the community to stand for election, particularly more women and younger people, who for financial reasons may not otherwise be able to.
“The panel found that while the basic allowance was roughly in line with other comparable authorities, the special responsibility allowance paid to the leader was a lot lower than the norm, being around 2.2 times the basic allowance, compared to between 2.8 and 3.2 in other similar councils.
“An increase in the leader’s special responsibility allowance is proposed by the panel to bring it more in line with other authorities and to better reflect the duties and responsibilities of the role.
“A decision on whether or not to increase members’ allowances will be taken by a meeting of the full council.
“Any changes would be backdated to take effect from May 8, 2017.”
The seven locations earmarked for closure are Langney, Pevensey Bay, Willingdon, Polegate, Ore, Mayfield and Ringmer.
According to the council the proposals are aimed at targeting ‘increasingly limited resources to areas where they will have the greatest impact on improving residents’ lives’, as the number of people using East Sussex libraries has fallen by 40 per cent in the last decade.
However the libraries could still remain open, if they can be funded wholly by communities or other organisations, or taken over by groups to run as alternative community facilities.
The mobile library service could also be axed, with additional support provided instead to those unable to travel to a library through the Home Library Service.
Nick Skelton, the county council’s assistant director for communities, said, “The proposal to close libraries and no longer run the mobile library is not one that we make lightly.
“With reductions in funding and changes to how the service is being used, we feel this is the best way to ensure we continue to offer a comprehensive service across the whole county and play our part in improving the lives of our residents.”
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