Hammersmith & FulhamNews

Hammersmith councillors vote in allowance rise that is ‘still below recommended levels’ for London boroughs

By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

Councillors in Hammersmith and Fulham have had their allowances raised by £1,775 – but despite criticism from the opposition, it’s over £4,000 less than was recommended.

The change was made during last Wednesday’s annual full council meeting.

Tory councillor Alex Karmel questioned the sums being spent on members’ allowances as Cllr Rowan Ree, cabinet member for finance and reform, announced the changes.

Cllr Karmel also urged the Labour administration to heed previous independent reports recommending limiting the number of Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) – money given to councillors with extra responsibilities beyond representing their constituents – as the number has almost doubled at the council in the last decade.

Cllr Ree told the chamber that, had the previous Tory administration’s last proposed members’ allowances scheme kept up with inflation, it would today be costing the council £1.245m. The scheme agreed during Wednesday’s session, which applies from April 1, will cost £1.2m, 0.7 per cent of the council’s total employee costs.

After taking control of the local authority from the Conservatives in 2014, Labour froze members’ allowances up to 2022. In a report prepared ahead of the full council meeting, officers wrote that ‘significant inflationary pressures over the last two years’ have ‘further eroded the real value of allowances, which are now the fifth lowest in London’.

The basic allowance for 2024/25, which is received by all members, was proposed to rise from £9,744.60 to £11,520. This is 72 per cent of that recommended by an Independent Panel of London Councils, which suggested £15,960. SRAs, which are paid to members who hold positions such as committee chairs and the leader, also rose, though again below that recommended by the panel.

Cllr Karmel told members that this year’s spend on SRAs totalling £495,000, is significantly more than the roughly £287,000 spent in 2013, the last full year the Conservatives were in power.

He also questioned the number of SRAs allocated for Labour councillors. For 2024/25, from a total of 37 SRAs listed, 34 have gone to Labour councillors, with three for the opposition.

Cllr Ree responded by stating he had to ‘start by correcting the opposition’, whose last proposed members’ allowance scheme was put forward in February 2014, before the election later that year.

He said had those proposals been implemented, and kept pace with inflation, basic allowances would be 18 per cent higher than what is in the 2024/25 report, cabinet members’ allowances would be 30 per cent higher, and those for the leader and leader of the opposition 33 per cent higher.

Cllr Ree said: “If the opposition really want to help keep the cost of council allowances down in the future, I’d suggest they start supporting policies that create a more stable economy, that control inflation, that tackle the cost of living, and I would suggest that to do so, they vote Labour on the 4th of July.”

The 2024/25 scheme was ultimately approved.

Pictured top: Cllr Rowan Ree (left) speaking at Hammersmith and Fulham council’s full council meeting (Picture: H&F council)

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