A GROUP of leading business figures have warned of a decline in the calibre of councillors if their recommendations to give elected council members a second allowance rise in two years are rejected.

An Independent Remuneration Panel examining pay for members of North Yorkshire County Council has concluded councillors’ basic allowance should be increased by 2.6 per cent to keep in line with other councils.

The panel said increasing the basic allowance to £9,885, which would cost the taxpayer £18,000 a year, was justified “to retain the balance between public duty and a realistic recompense for the time given up, commitment and responsibility to undertake the role”.

A spokesman for the panel said it “recognised that this was not an insignificant amount at a time of financial stringency, but we believed that this was affordable, justified and necessary...” after finding councillors were paid more at 13 of the 16 comparable county councils.

He added: “In our opinion, our recommendation is also necessary to attract the required calibre of candidate from a more diverse range of backgrounds to stand and serve as a councillor.”

The panel has also recommended raising the council leader’s allowance by £5,091 to reflect “the increasing complexity and demands of the role since the last uplift in 2006, with particular regard to steering the local authority through significant financial challenges and the growing importance of external relationships”.

While it has been proposed to increase all special responsibility allowances by 2.6 per cent, all members of the Police, Fire and Crime Panel have been recommended allowances after taking on duties to oversee the county’s fire service.

The total financial implication of the recommendations for the council’s budget for the coming year would be £30,042, which represents less than 0.01 per cent of the council’s net budget.

The four-member remuneration panel was led by former regional manager of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors John Thompson.

Critics of the proposals said they were inappropriate at a council which faces having to find millions of pounds more savings towards a projected budget shortfall of £197m by 2021/22.

Independent councillor Stuart Parsons said a range of factors other than pay, such as the times of council meetings, determined the calibre of members, and that councillors had benefited from a 4.5 per cent rise in basic allowances last year.

Cllr Parsons said: “By holding all their meetings during the day it excludes citizens from standing because they can’t get the time off work.”

The authority’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, said councillors would decided whether to accept the recommendations at a full council meeting next week.

He said: “Over the 20 years I have been a councillor I have never taken all the allowances that have been due to me.”