COUNCILLORS have agreed to review their pay packets every two years after the borough’s parties clashed over members’ allowances last year.

In November 2018, the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) had suggested councillors’ pay should rise by £134 as part of its annual review, but members from across the Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) chamber unanimously voted to reject these proposals despite intense discussions.

At a meeting on Thursday, March 21, it was suggested by Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner the IRP review members’ pay at longer intervals in order “to get away from Punch and Judy politics.”

However, Labour councillor Andy Croy called out the proposals, claiming they were brought forward for “political reasons”.

He added: “It has been brought forward to stop the annual juxtaposition of Tory austerity with Tory councillors voting themselves an annual pay rise.

“And it has been brought forward to limit the damage done to Tory candidates in local elections.

“And it has been brought forward as the Tories want to avoid the annual scrutiny by us and by residents.”

But Conservative councillor Keith Baker hit back, reminding Cllr Croy the Conservatives had voted against pay rise proposals last year due to it being the “wrong time” to do so.

Cllr Baker also said the Labour party should “take a dose of their own medicine” after pointing out Labour-run neighbouring authority Reading Borough Council paid its councillors more than WBC did.

The leader of the council, Julian McGhee-Sumner, had initially proposed councillors’ pay was reviewed every four years but the plan was changed to every two years after Cllr Ferris submitted an amendment to the motion.

The council does not currently have an IRP after all three members of the panel resigned following the pay dispute in November last year, and so far the council has only received two applications from residents to become part of a new panel.

At the meeting, Independent councillor Gary Cowan said he was not surprised at the lack of applications for the new IRP, as “the life of the IRP is as long as Conservative leaders.”

Lib Dem Cllr Prue Bray suggested her support for a national body which sets councillors’ pay, rather than local bodies, as she claimed this meant the issue would be a “political football for as long as we have this system”.

Conservative councillor Shahid Younis echoed this, suggesting the council needed to ‘start from scratch’, shortly followed by Tory Cllr Chris Smith, who highlighted the councillors had spent longer debating these proposals than they had to discuss ‘real local democracy’ issues like changes to polling places.

The amended motion was carried after all councillors except the three Labour councillors and Independent Gary Cowan voted for the proposals, meaning WBC will now have to change its constitution to accommodate the new plan.