VOTE: Do you think district councillors deserve an increase in their allowance of up to 41.5 percent?

A Union boss has slammed the decision by the council to back a hefty hike in their annual allowances.

Some district councillors could be in line for an increase of more than 40 percent - which would then go up each year.

Proposals put forward by an independent remuneration panel to boost basic payouts from £3,900 to £4,300 have been backed by district’s cabinet members.

But Vic Willis, from the regional Unison office, said it was unfortunate the increase ‘doesn’t appear to apply to staff as well’.

The 10.2 per cent rise for Chichester District Council’s 48 members would be its first increase since 2008. In addition, an extra allowance paid to cabinet members could rise by 41.5 per cent, from £4,452 to £6,300 - however this would be ‘neutral’ as membership has been reduced from 10 to seven.

An allowance for the leader could rise by 4.1 per cent, and for chairmen of the council and committees by just over one per cent.

The proposals, supported by the cabinet on Tuesday, now go forward to the full council for a final decision. If given the green light, the total allowance amount will increase by around £24,000 to £290,358.

But Mr Willis said it was unfair for councillors to get a raise when workers were struggling to make ends meet.

“Staff haven’t had the luxury of any increase for the last two years,” he said. “One thing I would say is that not all of the councillors are subject to inflationary pressures.

“There have been reductions in staff in order to make savings but to suggest it is neutral is somewhat disingenuous. Surely it just better to make savings and then perhaps the pain is shared.”

If the panel’s report is accepted, the allowance will in future be increased in line with the retail price increase every year, from April 2013.

The new allowance proposed for the coming year compares with the current average for South East councils of £4,426, and for West Sussex district councils of £4,223.

Increases are also proposed for councillors with significant extra responsibilities, including cabinet members, to be paid on top of the basic allowance.

A report by the panel said that according to replies to a questionnaire, the hours spent by members on council duties varied widely.

However, the average amount of time claimed to be spent – 68 hours a month – was not far short of a part-time job, and for cabinet members was substantially more; the leader of the council effectively had a full-time job.

The panel’s report said its members were impressed by the commitment of the councillors and the dedication with which they sought to serve the people of the district.

They believed their proposals represented a ‘very fair deal for council taxpayers’.