CHESHIRE East has turned down a proposal which would have allowed councillors to claim two special responsibility allowances.

At present councillors can only claim one special responsibility allowance (SRA).

The Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) had recommended this be changed so an individual councillor could claim a maximum of two – for example if they chaired a committee and were vice chair of another.

This proposal was backed by Cheshire East’s corporate policy committee earlier this month, but on Tuesday it was narrowly refused at full council by 35 votes to 33, with six councillors abstaining.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Craig BrowneCllr Craig Browne (Image: Cheshire East Council)

The decision comes just a couple of weeks after Cllr Craig Browne (Ind) revealed he was standing down as deputy leader and chair of the highways committee because he couldn’t afford to stay in the roles as he only received an allowance for his leadership role and hadn’t had a penny for chairing highways for five years.

On Tuesday, speaking in favour of the proposal to allow two SRAs, Cllr Browne told full council: “It’s about paying people for the role they are already fulfilling."

The Alderley Edge councillor, who would not have benefited if it had been voted through because he stands down as deputy leader on March 1, said: “If a role prevents you from being able to go out and earn a full-time salary, as being leader or deputy leader does, then that role needs to pay a full-time salary in itself.”

Council leader Sam Corcoran (Sandbach, Lab) said: “There are some councillors who do rely on their allowances, some councillors who have given up work in order to do the roles that they do for the council.

“As council leader, I don't want to be losing good councillors because they cannot afford to give up other work to take on another council role.”

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Laura CraneCllr Laura Crane (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Cllr Laura Crane (Sandbach, Lab) agreed.

“As a Labour member, if work is being done, then I expect those doing that work to be suitably reimbursed,” said Cllr Crane.

“What we're talking about is a recommendation from the IRP - and it is not insisting that those with two responsibilities claim those allowances, but it is giving the option for them to do that."

But other councillors disagreed.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Nicola CookCllr Nicola Cook (Image: Cheshire East Council)

Cllr Nicola Cook (Sandbach, Ind) said: ”When Cheshire East Council moved to a committee structure, it did so to ensure that decision-making was not centralised in a small cabinet of councillors.

“The payment of two SRAs effectively incentivises a small group of councillors to undertake more than one role.

“This, in my view, undermines the decision-making and I believe that our decision-making will be the worse for it.”

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Liz WardlawCllr Liz Wardlaw (Image: Cllr Liz Wardlaw)

Cllr Liz Wardlaw, a former deputy leader of Cheshire East under the previous Conservative administration, said: “I'm in full agreement that the job is hard and that, in fact, we probably are under remunerated for it, but two allowances to one councillor doesn't make sense. Spread the load.”

The move to allow councillors to have two SRAs was defeated with the Conservative group and some Independents voting against it.

The council also voted to freeze councillor allowances for this financial year and for there to be a full review of all member allowances by the new Independent Remuneration Panel.