East Devon councillors have given themselves a 20 per cent pay rise. 

They are called ‘allowances’, not salaries, and the basic annual rate has gone up for the first time since 2008 from £4,360 to £5,260. 

Additional payments for special responsibilities have also risen, such as the council leader’s allowance on top of the basic rate, which is up £56 to £14,477, and the leader of the opposition’s, which has risen by £907 to £4,928.  

Cabinet portfolio holders will also see a rise of £726 to £6,910 to their special responsibility allowance and the chair of the overview committee a rise of £1,787 to £3,797, amongst others. 

Councillors voted to accept the figures suggested by an independent panel this week. 

Every council relies on a remuneration panel, completely independent of the council, to work out how much members get. 

Cllr Alasdair Bruce (Independent, Feniton) was worried about how the public would see the rises.  

He said: “I think we all know realistically this is going to be a hard sell and it’s partly our own fault because we’ve let this slide for so long.” 

Cllr Eileen Wragg (Lib Dem, Exmouth Town) was pleased with the increases. 

She said these changes are long overdue. “I think what a lot of members of the public don’t realise [is] that we are actually taxed on these allowances and they are allowances.

“They’re not salaries, they’re not wages.  

“We really need to encourage younger people to come forward to stand for election regardless of their political affiliations. 

“This is a move I believe in the right democratic direction.” 

But Cllr Roy Collins (Liberal Party, Honiton St Michael’s) was concerned younger people would not be able to afford to serve as a councillor.  

He said: “I’m the Liberal Party nomination officer for the south west. I wouldn’t dream about trying to get working people to stand for this council for such a low amount of money. 

“My son, if you wanted him to stand for the council, he couldn’t survive on that little pittance. He’d want at least minimum wage. 

“I’ve studied this council since it was formed. And in the early days we had… lots of business people, factory owners, several hoteliers were on this council. I don’t believe there’s any now. 

“Half the council was made of farmers. I’m the only farmer left. Farmers can’t afford it. I’m struggling to come here. I was paying a man £60 to milk the cows so I could come here.” 

The basic allowance rise will be backdated to last May’s election, and the special responsibilities allowances to 1 June 2023.  

From next year, the allowances will go up annually and will be reviewed every four years.