New Bucks council should adopt allowance 'claw back' scheme for poor attendance, say review panel

An independent panel has recommended that the new Buckinghamshire Council implements a claw back scheme of councillor allowances for poor attendance.
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As required, the Shadow Executive employed an independent body, called the Independent Renumeration Panel (IRP), to make recommendations regarding the structure and policies of the new Buckinghamshire Council.

As part of their report the IRP recommended that councillors should only be able to claim their full basic allowance if they attend a certain number of meetings, suggesting 50% or 60%.

The IRP wrote in their report: “The Panel recommends the Council adopt a claw back mechanism. As a voluntary process, the claw back is probably best implemented through the group system.”

Deputy Chief Executive of the new Buckinghamshire Council, Sarah AshmeadDeputy Chief Executive of the new Buckinghamshire Council, Sarah Ashmead
Deputy Chief Executive of the new Buckinghamshire Council, Sarah Ashmead

At the meeting of the Shadow Executive on the 18 February, Deputy Chief Executive of the new council, Sarah Ashmead, said: "The IRP also made some recommendations around accountability that they felt important, and we're recommending that you endorse those and accept those in the scheme, with the exception of a claw-back scheme because we can't legally enforce that."

Ms Ashmead added: “This is an issue for political groups to think about after the election.”

Since the IRP report clearly recommends that the claw back process should go through the political groups, it doesn't appear that there is anything for the Shadow Authority to reject, contrary to Ms Ashmead's statement.

The Bucks Herald asked for clarity on how implementing the claw back scheme would proceed.

A Shadow Authority spokesman said: “This is not something that falls within the powers of the Shadow Authority to agree. As any claw-back would be an entirely voluntary arrangement, the new councillors elected in May will need to decide whether they wish to implement this.

“The Independent Review Panel report stated that as a voluntary process, the claw-back is probably best implemented through the group system. This is why the report to the Executive proposed that we discuss the idea of a claw-back scheme with political groups after the election.”

District councillor Robin Stuchbury, who is also a member of the scrutiny and overview committee for the new council, said: "I would be interested in what evidence was presented to the panel about poor attendance of councillors in Buckinghamshire which drew them to conclude that this recommendation was necessary.”

The proposals are due to be put to the Shadow Authority for the new council on the 27 February.