The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Council are to receive an increase in their allowances - as are councillors who are members of the Planning Committee.
The issue of allowances for councillors with “special responsibility” was brought to last Tuesday’s full Council meeting after members voted to defer the decision from a previous committee meeting.
A recommendation was made that the Mayor will receive an increase in allowance of £12,000, the Deputy Mayor an increase of £1,000 and members of the Planning Committee an increase of £1,200.
The Mayor Cllr Michelle Knight-McQuillan vacated the chair during the discussion and left the chamber. Neither she, the Deputy Mayor nor Planning committee members were permitted to speak or vote on the recommendation.
Chief Finance Officer David Wright had been asked to bring additional information on allowances in other council areas to the meeting.
He reported that he had sought information from six other councils in NI regardng special responsibility and only two of the six pay their Planning Committee members. He said that the allowance paid to the Mayor in those other councils ranged from £7,200 per year right up to £30,113 per annum. The Deputy Mayor or Vice-Chair allowances ranged from £5,000 through to £8,465.
Cllr Cara McShane said it was “embarrassing” and proposed that an external body should do this. Acting chair Cllr Norman Hillis advised that legislation required each council to make their own decision.
Cllr George Duddy said it was a pity that councillors weren’t debating giving their lowest paid couuncil staff the living wage rather than voting for allowance increases for themselves. He made an amendment that no increases be made until the end of the current Council’s mandate in 2019.
Cllr Boyd Douglas then made another amendment to accept the recommendations and award the increases.
Cllr Duddy’s amendment fell by 10 to 6 with one abstention. Cllr Douglas’s amendment passed by eight votes to six with four abstentions.