Third time unlucky! Labour fail to overturn Peterborough councillors’ pay rise

The council chamber in the Town Hall

The council chamber in the Town Hall

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That was the logic behind another attempt by Labour city councillors to claw back a rise in members’ allowances, and for the third time they were defeated, this time by 20 votes.

While the first two votes centred on all councillor allowances - which will cost Peterborough City Council an extra £186,000 every year - the latest vote was specifically about reducing special responsibility allowances.

These are handed out to councillors with two roles, such as cabinet members and chairs of scrutiny committees.

Councillor Ed Murphy, who put forward the motion, said: “This is a real practical step where you can show the people of Peterborough you can give something back while you serve them.”

However, council leader Cllr John Holdich, whose salary has risen from £21,497.85 to £30,300, on top of his £10,100 basic allowance, called the motion the “politics of envy.”

Claiming that his cabinet colleagues work in excess of 120 hours a month, he added: “I ask members to put this farce to bed.”

The motion said by reducing special responsibility allowances and reducing the number of cabinet members, £50,000 could be saved. The money could then be given to “people in severe distress due to homelessness, to the elderly, or to those leaving care.”

But former council leader Cllr Marco Cereste defended members for taking the extra allowances. He said: “Not every employer will allow you time off to be a councillor. If you’ve got small children and a mortgage and car to pay for, what are you going to do?

“Be a great upstanding public citizen but not be able to pay your Sainsbury’s bill at the end of the month? That’s nonsense.”

Cllr Cereste also suggested that the five councillors who submitted the motion could find the £50,000 by handing over their own allowances.

The pay rises, which are the first since 2009, were recommended by an independent panel. Labour member Cllr Angus Ellis said: “Outside of this chamber people are struggling. Let’s put something back.”

But UKIP member Cllr John Whitby said: “This is party politics and I will not play the game.” The Liberal Democrats abstained after arguing that councillors should not decide what they get paid.