Councillors vote for 6% increase in basic allowances

Voting for the motion, Labour councillors said better renumeration was important for increasing diversity and inclusion, reports Sebastian Mann, Local Democracy Reporter

Main image credit: Sakchai Ruenkam via Canva, Inset image credit: Waltham Forest Council

Waltham Forest councilllors voted to increase their basic yearly allowance by 6% last week. 

The move means that councillors will now receive a minimum of £12,766.64 per year from 1st April. 

All Labour councilllors at the full council meeting on Thursday (29th February) voted in favour of the motion, which will cost the council an extra £24,546 a year, while Conservative councillors opposed it. 

Grace Williams, Labour leader of the council, said Waltham Forest allowances “severely lagged” behind much of London and the recommended amounts set by the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP).

The panel recommends councillors receive a minimum of £15,960 a year, while the leader would receive £62,092 and scrutiny chairs as much as £31,046.

In the neighbouring borough of Newham, the approved basic allowance for 2023/24 was £12,255, compared to £12,480 in nearby Hackney.

However, in Kensington and Chelsea, where council tax is lower, it was £11,027 – almost £1,000 below Waltham Forest.

The new council allowances would still sit below the recommended figures and Cllr Williams, whose income will rise from £54,520 to £56,635,  said that Tory proposals would have seen the basic allowance reduced to £6,800.

She added: “It is disappointing to see Conservative councillors devalue our work. I am afraid that arguments like that play to a wider narrative about politicians being in it for themselves or not putting in the work, or not caring.”

Speaking for the motion to increase allowances, Markhouse ward councillor Sharon Waldron said the principles of representative democracy risked being “undermined” if councillors did not receive “adequate compensation” for their work. 

She said: “It’s imperative that we recognise the value of education, time and effort that individuals invest when they choose to serve as councillors. Let’s recognise that not everyone comes from a privileged background. Some are from single-income homes, others juggle demanding jobs with council duties while some lack family support or must pay for childcare. Many councillors must sacrifice their income source to serve their communities.”

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

Explaining the need for diversity in Waltham Forest Town Hall, Cllr Waldron gave the example of a “young Black community activist” she had met who had ambitions of becoming a councillor.

“Upon learning about the allowances, she was shocked, unable to comprehend how anyone could afford to commit their time without sufficient compensation”, she said, adding, “her reaction underscores a stark reality: without fair allowances, many qualified individuals would be unable to serve, perpetrating a lack of diversity in our councils.”

Speaking after the vote, Emma Best, Waltham Forest Conservative leader, lambasted the pay rises as “irresponsible” given that residents were being asked to pay more council tax. 

She said: “Waltham Forest councillors receive a fair allowance in comparison to other boroughs in London and the current level is set well so that work-related expenditure and income loss is compensated but the allowance is not a financial incentive to serve.”

She added a 70% rise in one post would be “hard to swallow” for many residents and said the funds could have gone towards saving South Chingford Community Library, which Tories say is at risk of closure. 

Deputy Conservative group leader Afzal Akram said the increase in allowances would be more strongly felt by residents than councillors. 

He said: “This increase in allowance will not affect our lives that much but it affects our residents.”

He added that councllors should “dump” the increases and put the money towards the community library in Chingford Mount Road.

Tara Copeland, the Liberal Democrats’ prospective parliamentary candidate for Leyton and Wanstead, said it was “shocking” councillors would vote to increase their allowances when they already earn “above average pay”. 

She added: “This money should be spent lowering the cuts on children’s welfare or services for the disabled. It is another example of councillors lining their own pockets rather than looking to support their constituents and the most vulnerable people in Waltham Forest.”

According to a council report, the IRP says that the basic allowances in London are significantly lower than Scotland’s (£20,099) and Wales (£17,600).

The Echo needs you. No matter how small, your support makes a difference

Waltham Forest Echo is a community newspaper that holds authority to account, highlights inequality, promotes good causes, and provides a platform for local people. We do real local news with no paywalls, free to read for all. We can only do this with the continued support of our readers. If you can afford to, please consider supporting us with a small monthly, yearly or one-off contribution.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month.  £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or annually 

More Information about donations