HIGHER salaries and childcare expenses should be offered to attract more diverse candidates for local government roles, councillors in Monmouthshire have said.

Councillors across Wales are set for a 1.97 per cent pay rise next year but there are no plans to increase childcare allowances, which is unchanged since 2014.

With childcare costs increasing, the council’s democratic services committee raised concerns that people could be deterred from standing as an elected member in the future.Labour councillor Martyn Groucutt said the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales, an independent body which sets councillors’ basic annual salary and allowances, had “overlooked” the issue.

More councillors in Monmouthshire are applying for help with childcare, with some close to claiming the maximum reimbursement of £403 per month.

Local democracy officer John Pearson said: “The reason why the IRPW have ignored this is because in some authorities there are zero claims for pay allowances. It’s not top of their agenda but it’s affecting us.”

According to Mr Pearson, councillors were paying an average £600 a month to cover childcare costs while carrying out public duties equivalent to three days a week.

Lib Dem councillor Jo Watkins claimed she had faced “shocking” childcare costs while working outside of school term time.

Cllr Jo Watkins

But Labour councillor Tudor Thomas claimed that the salary offered by the IRPW was not reflective of the amount of work carried by councillors.

“If you want to attract younger people, offer a more economic salary and more people might choose local government as a means of earning a living,” he added.

Cllr Thomas said there was a public perception that most councillors were “male, pale and stale” and that local government was not diverse enough.

“I hope that’s not true, but the reality is you want a diversity of views and unless you have that, I don’t think we’re going to move very far,” said Cllr Thomas.

Similar views had been shared by several councillors earlier this year as part of a Welsh Assembly survey on diversity in local government.

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The committee suggested that varying the times of certain council meetings could allow councillors to find other childcare arrangements. This was trialled by the council but later scrapped due to scheduling issues.

Conservative councillor Giles Howard said the authority had to provide “variety” to make it fair for everybody.

Cllr Giles Howard

“This council isn’t doing anything different to when I first joined 19 years ago. We’ve failed to deliver,” said Cllr Howard.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said it was important for councillors to receive appropriate levels of support for their caring responsibilities while “juggling professional, family and council commitments”.

A spokesman said: “The WLGA promotes and supports local democracy and wants to encourage as diverse a range of people to stand for council, in particular more women and younger people, and appropriate salaries and reimbursements of costs of care are an important part of this.”