Pay rises for Epsom and Ewell Borough Council

Epsom and Ewell Town Hall Building

At Epsom and Ewell’s Strategy and Resources committee meeting on 26th January, councillors discussed rates of pay in the forthcoming year – for staff, for the Chief Executive and for themselves. Most staff will receive a capped 3% cost of living pay increase. This is a result of the Council’s Employee Pay and Reward Procedure 2020-24, a four year pay deal agreed at the beginning of that period. This compares with a Consumer Price Index rise of 10.5% for the 12 months ending in December 2022.

This compares with a proposed increase for the Chief Executive of the borough of at least 15%, a figure which made Cllr Kate Chinn (Labour, Court Ward) feel “uncomfortable”. The top of the salary range for the Chief Executive will become £143,376 in the 2023/4 year.

A council officer explained that a review of pay for Chief Officers had been undertaken some years ago, but that the Chief Executive’s pay had been excluded from that review. Following an external benchmarking exercise, “this is a catch-up exercise,” she said. Nevertheless, “for the staff to get 3% because of the agreement that they’re in and the chief exec to get 15 to 16%, it does feel quite difficult,” Cllr Chinn complained.

Cllr. Eber Kington (RA, Ewell Court Ward) took comfort from the gender pay gap which continues to be negative, showing that women employed by the local authority earn on average more than men. This is primarily due to the majority of front-line operatives being male and senior management roles being held by a significant proportion of women. “This does suggest that this is an organisation to which woman feel comfortable applying and where they wish to stay and seek promotion within the organisation,” said Cllr Kington. “I think that is something we ought to be proud of as a local authority.”

However, the issue that provoked the most councillor participation was their own pay. The motion that councillors were asked to vote on suggested that their allowances should mirror the staff pay award and rise by 3% in 2023/24, with an independent Remuneration Panel determining the increase in 2024/25.

Cllr David Gulland (Lib Dem, College Ward) felt “personally unhappy in voting any increase for the councillors” in the current environment.

However, the meeting’s chairman, Cllr Neil Dallen (RA (Town Ward), pointed out that the last two independent remuneration panels had recommended a considerable increase in councillors’ allowances, but the council had voted at the time not to accept those recommendations, otherwise allowances would now be much higher than they are.

Councillor Alan Williamson (RA, West Ewell Ward) agreed. “There is a widening gap between this authority and other districts around Surrey,” he argued. “In future fiscal years, we should get back on track in line with the independent recommendations.”

“We have bills,” said Councillor Monica Coleman (RA, West Ewell Ward), “and some of us have to decide if we’re going to be councillors or get a job. There are some occasions when I have to decide whether to work or go to a meeting and sometimes work rules because that pays my bills.”

A sentiment that was echoed by Councillor Chinn. “A really good overhaul of the allowances would be very welcome,” she said, “ and looking at allowances for things like carers, transport, child-minding …. to enable as many people as possible to become councillors.”

The basic allowance for a councillor will rise to £4,031.70 in 2023/24. Some posts such as committee chairs and vice chairs receive additional allowances.

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