The Allowances Debate and the Police Authority

The debate about Cambridgeshire County Councillors’ allowances has been rumbling on over the last few days on Twitter and in the local press. The council meets tomorrow, so here’s one last bit of data to throw in to the mix. One of the reasons advanced in the report for increasing County Councillors’ allowances was that members of Police Authorities typically get higher allowances. The report notes that the Association of Police Authorities recommends a basic allowance for Police Authority members in the range £8,600 to £12,900, and points out that this is higher than the current basic allowance for County Councillors. However, the report entirely fails to mention that the actual basic allowance paid to members of Cambridgeshire Police Authority is only £8,335, which is significantly less than the figure of £9,500 that the report recommends for County Councillors.

It could also be argued that Police Authority members do pretty well on the allowances front. According to the attendance records published on their website, in the year to June 2011, Police Authority members were expected to attend an average of 18.2 meetings each, of which they managed to attend an average of 13.7, a rate of just 75%. That works out at a basic allowance of over £600 for each meeting attended, though presumably Police Authority members have other work to do besides attending meetings. It should also be noted that these allowances are taxable. But even so, does the allowances panel really think this is a good basis for deciding on County Councillors’ allowances?

Here is the attendance data for the individual Police Authority members in the year to June 2011:

More than half the Authority members are also councillors, either for Cambridgeshire County or Peterborough City, and so will also be in receipt of allowances from their council. The independent members of the Authority managed a slightly better attendance rate, 79%, versus 72% for the councillors, but there doesn’t seem to be a strong correlation. How does this compare with the workload of a councillor? The County Council doesn’t publish attendance statistics for its members in an accessible form, but we can compare these with the figures for Cambridge City Council over the same period (I have looked at similar figures before). Excluding councillors elected for the first time in May 2011, during the same period the average City Councillor was expected to attend 29.4 meetings, and actually attended 25.9, a rate of 88%. And their basic allowance? £2,782 – still over £100 for each meeting attended, but most City Councillors do a lot of other work.

So overall, Police Authority allowances look like a pretty poor basis for deciding on the right level of allowances for County Councillors.

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