“IT’S the wrong time” to raise councillors’ salaries, a senior member of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council has said.

At the county borough’s full council meeting on Thursday, November 25, councillors objected to a proposal from the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) that the annual basic salary is increased from £14,368 to £16,800 following next year’s elections.

Earlier this month a meeting of the council’s Democratic Services committee looked at the IRPW and recommended that the council refuse the rise.

Democratic Services committee chairman Cllr John C Morgan said: “After a lengthy debate we took into account the fact that at this moment in time council staff have been offered a pay rise of 1.7 per cent and the NHS has also been offered a much lower pay rise than should be considered.

“We thought the IRPW’s recommendation was excessive and should report this back to them.

Democratic Services deputy chairman, Cllr Bob Summers said: “These increases are too drastic, but I’d like to support in the report the cost of care and personal assistance, I think we need to look at that more closely, and where we are as far as members claiming it.”

The council’s organisational development manager Richard Bridge told councillors: “There’s low take up, one maybe two maximum.”

This section in the IRPW draft report relates to paying for someone outside a councillor’s household to look after a child or elderly relative while they are on official council business, such as meetings.

Labour group leader Cllr Steve Thomas said: “This is the wrong time to do it, there’s too many people suffering particularly with the pandemic and we need to stand fore square with the workforce.”

Cllr Wayne Hodgins added that councillors don’t go into politics for money “but to make a difference” for their communities.

The report by the IRPW is a draft that has been out to consultation at Welsh local authorities.

The consultation finishes tomorrow, Friday, November 26 and a final report is expected in the New Year.

The IRPW chairman John Bader has said that the increases are “fair.”

The IRPW believe that the local election in May 2022 provides an “opportune time to rectify the imbalance between the basic salary of councillors and the average salaries of their constituents.”

After next May’s election the number of Blaenau Gwent councillors will be reduced from 42 to 33.

The changes put forward by the IRPW would also see a large hike in senior salary payments for council leaders, deputy leaders and cabinet or executive members.

The IRPW believe that council leaders should receive a salary “at or above” a back bench member of the Senedd and being in the cabinet/executive should be seen as a “full time job.”

Whoever leads the council after the May election could receive a £53,550, salary rising from the current £44,921

The deputy leader could receive £37,485 rising from the current £31,783.

Councillor on the cabinet/executive would receive £32,130 up from £27,741.

Other senior roles such as committee chairmen or women, leader of the opposition and other group leaders would stay at this year’s level, but with the post holder receiving the basic rise.