5:02 p.m. April 11, 2022
Labor has condemned a pay rise for Norfolk local councilors at a time when the agency is cutting free school meal vouchers.
Norfolk County Council (NCC) will give councilors a 1.75 per cent increase in their allowances.
The increase means Andrew Proctor, the head of NCC, will be better off for £15 a week – the same amount given to a family under the free school meal voucher scheme a week.
While council members do not receive a salary, they do receive an expense allowance to compensate them for the time devoted to their duties.
Council members with special responsibilities – such as the Chair, cabinet members, opposition leaders, committee chairs and members of certain committees – are also eligible for special payments called Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs).
Labor Councilor Mike Smith-Clare criticized the council for the increase, which was granted at the same time as the Conservative-led government had refused to debate its decision to cut free school lunch vouchers during the Easter holidays.
“How disgusting that while they choose to ignore the plight of those most affected, they are delighted to see an increase in their own special allowances,” he added.
“It really shows how little they care about the lives of Norfolk’s most vulnerable children – more of a case of letting children starve while grabbing what they can.
“I think the thing that sticks in your throat as to whether Andrew Proctor says it’s intentional or unintentional is that £15 a week is the equivalent of a meal voucher.
“There is something very symbolic about a leader not taking an urgent matter to discuss the issue and not taking a petition until forced by children.
“It shows his lack of concern for these young people in dire circumstances.”
Mr Smith-Clare urged councilors to use the additional allowances to support those in need in the community.
Mr Proctor was contacted but did not respond to comment.
The Government has insisted there will be no reversal of the decision to end free school lunch vouchers as it wants to use the £6.7million of available Government money to help a wider range of people.
On Monday, opposition councils at County Hall walked out of a session after the government declined to discuss ending the scheme.
After the meeting, Labor councilors supported a plaque in Gorleston offering supplies to those in need.
Since 2016/17, the amount the Council is spending on SRA has increased by almost 41 per cent – from £220,781 in 2016/17 to £310,289 in 2020/21.
Council members received £1.3m from basic allowances and SRAs in 2019/20.
This comes against the backdrop that the Council needs to save at least £39million.