Democratic Services, Councillors

Undertaking an effective Councillor Allowance Review – How SEE can support your council

Headshot of Mark Palmer

Mark Palmer, Development Director

Friday 08 July 2022

The Members Allowances Regulations (2003) require all Councils to undertake a full review of their Members Allowances Scheme at least every four years. Undertaking such a review is both complex, requires adherence to formal regulations and is dependent upon recruiting and training a Panel of at least three independent people from across the local community. 

Sounds challenging but don’t panic! We, at SEE can help. I have many years of experience in supporting the recruitment, training and chairing of the Independent Remuneration Panels (IRP’), and am currently Chairing and supporting more than 20 Council IRP’s.  

Other support that myself and SEE offers includes:

  • The recruitment and selection of  IRP Members. This support includes a Recruitment Pack, Role description and Person Specification including interview support
  • Training and development of appointed Panel Members to ensure the Panel have an understanding of the Members Allowances Regulations and what is involved in undertaking an effective and legally compliant review.
  • Providing comparative data to ensure that effective benchmarking of similar councils within the Councils geographical and family tree can be used to support recommendations.
  • Undertaking a questionnaire of councillors and for district, borough and unitary councils consulting with Parish and Town Councils.
  • Chairing a two to three day review via MS Teams or Zoom that includes interviews and workshops with key councillors in particular those with Special Responsibilities.
  • Producing two reports for the principal Council and Parish/Town Councils with clear recommendations and ensuring an awareness of the political sensitivity and media impact of the recommendations.
  • Providing consultative support with lead councillors and officers to ensure the report recommendations can be considered by Cabinet and Council.
A hand holding a magnifying glass over a spreadsheet full of data. In the background there is a computer screen with graphs on it.

As well as has experience in chairing reviews for district, unitary and county councils across the South East, we do the same for our sister organisation in the East of England.

We’ve received some great feedback along the way which we always like to share! Below is what just two of the Councils we have recently supported with their full Councillors Allowances Review, have said about engaging with our support.

I was very pleased with the appointment of Mark Palmer for our recent Independent Renumeration Panel. Our review was overdue, but during a difficult economic climate, Mark chaired the Panel effectively, brought with him a huge amount of knowledge and expertise and took into account the view of the majority of members through interviews and a questionnaire. The report was clear to read, balanced and received in a timely manner. In addition, Mark was available prior to adoption for further queries and as points were raised. We would use Mark again for future panels.

 

Joanna Boaler – Head of Democracy and Transparency Essex County Council.

We were very satisfied with the services of Mark as chair of our Independent Remuneration Panel. He worked alongside two local panel members and guided them through the process so they felt able to contribute effectively. Mark represented excellent value for money, especially when I consider the time that would have been needed by Democratic Services staff to train panel members, prepare materials / questionnaires and guide a lay chair. I was also impressed by his focused approach and how efficiently the panel prepared for and executed interviews before deliberating and finalising their report. It was certainly a more condensed timeline that we had previously achieved. He took a similarly efficient approach with our parish review.

Mark also brings political awareness to the table and spent time with me to understand the local dynamic, history and broadly what was likely to work for political groups (including a potentially acceptable budget envelope). At the last minute (the week before Council) there were some late representations from one Group. Mark and the other panel members found the time to meet quickly with Councillors involved and provide a clear steer to Council about their recommendations in light of the late representations, which avoided a drawn out debate at Council. 

Mark has been available to deal with informal enquiries as they have since arisen and I see no reason why we would not engage him for our next full review.


Pete Brown – Head of Democratic Services, Milton Keynes Council.

Mark lead what was an entirely new Panel, tasked to begin a series of reviews as the Council implements an Electoral Review, with a reduction in the number of councillors from 60 to 48.  In this context, Mark chaired the Panel with the terms of reference strongly in mind, whilst balancing the views of councillors, and the comparative data and evidence.  Mark guided the Panel through challenging recommendations in the current economic climate.  The report was produced in a timely manner and Mark continues to be on hand for queries as we move towards implementing the recommendations.  The Council adopted the recommendations of the Panel in full.  We will be using Mark again for a further review from 2024.

 

Matt Wisdom – Democratic Services Manager, New Forest District Council

We’ve just sent out our annual South East Members’ Allowance survey to all Democratic Services teams in councils across the South East. The survey is the only comprehensive survey of Member Allowances carried out each year. The results help councils benchmark against others and are a vital tool in informing Member Allowance Reviews.

All councils who complete the survey will receive a copy of the full results once collated after the closing date, so it is extremely important your council completes the survey!

Get in touch

If you want help or advice on Member’s Allowance reviews or IRPs get in touch with me by completing the form. 

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