It was "financially unsustainable' for Councillor Craig Browne to remain deputy leader


Councillor Craig Browne has confirmed that he had to stand down as deputy leader of Cheshire East Council and also as chair of the council's highways and transport committee because he could no longer afford to carry out these roles.

He was speaking at a meeting of the Corporate Policy Committee on Tuesday, 13th February, where members voted to freeze their basic allowances and allow individual members to receive two Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA) if they wish.

Councillor Craig Browne, who will be stepping down from his roles as deputy leader and chair of highways and transport in two and a half weeks time*, to take up the position of Chief Executive with Citizen's Advice North Staffordshire, endorsed the proposals.

He said "These recommendations should they go through will have no impact on me at all, therefore I have no conflict of interest in what I am about to say."

Cllr Browne continued "I am leaving these roles not because I want to but because I have got to and I have got to because it has become financially unsustainable for me to continue.

Each elected member of the Council receives a sum of £12,851 per annum as a basic allowance. As Deputy Leader, Councillor Browne also received an SRA of £17,820 taking his income to £30,671. He was unable to claim a second SRA of £12,485 as Highways and Transport Committee Chair which would have provided him to £43,156 per annum.

"The Deputy Leader in a shared administration in a council that is 15th largest in the country and I think 17th most complex is a full time job with a part time salary. I know some people will say, and i have said it previously, members allowance is not intended to be a salary and I can accept that but if it is a full time job or a full time role it removes the option of going out and earning a salary. So how are you supposed to survive unless you are either retired or independently wealthy.

"In the five years, that I have fulfilled the roles, of firstly as portfolio holder of strategic infrastructure and transport and secondly as chair of transport and highways committee I have received not a penny in renumeration for either of those roles.

"To anybody working in any other sector that would seem a bit odd and unusual and so in some ways I am frustrated that these proposals are coming to forward now, very late in the day as I would see it, attempting to address this anomaly because if they had come forward even 9 months ago and been approved at full council there is ever likelihood I would not be leaving the roles I currently occupy."

Councillor Janet Clowes, Leader of Conservative Group, had proposed an amendment to remove the recommendation that councillors could claim two SRAs. She said "In the current climate it is not an appropriate way forward for members to be claiming more money and it could be argued if we could maybe we should be sharing out our roles and responsibilities a little better."

In response, Councillor Mark Goldsmith Deputy Leader of Independent Group said "It will bring us in line with almost all other councils. It is not a pay rise though. it aligns us with basic employment law that says if you advertise a job with a salary and someone does that job to a good standard then you pay them for it.

"Our situation is quite bizarre as Cheshire East says it does not have to pay for the work done as they already pay the councillor for working on something else that's rather unrelated. I don't think any of residents would think that's fair if it happened to them. Cheshire East claims to be a fair council though so this change is long overdue."

Cllr Jos Saunders, Poynton East and Pott Shrigley Conservative, commented "In terms of having two allowances this is completely against custom and practise in this council and at the moment I think I am fundamentally opposed to this.

"At the moment our residents are being asked to have potentially their recycling centres mothballed, their being asked to pay an uplift in green bins charges. We have already gone through on the MTFS (Medium Term Financial Strategy) the challenges faces us and having this will actually mean we spend more money. We're not saving any money, it is not cost neutral so I am opposed to it."

Members voted against the amendment.

Council Leader Councillor Sam Corcoran said "There are members here who do rely on their allowances, there are members of this council who have given up jobs to work for the council and are struggling financially.

"We have frozen allowances for a number of years. We put them up by four per cent in 2022/23 when inflation was running at 10%. We are advocating freezing them again now. We do need to think about the way we remunerate councillors and I would say if pass this at full council it is still up to individual members whether they take SRA allowances."

Councillor Sam Corcoran receives the basic allowance of £12,851 per annum and an SRA as Council Leader of £29,517 taking his income to £42,368. If the recommendation is approved by full council he will be entitled to claim a second SRA of £12,485 as Chair of the Corporate Policy Committee if he wishes.

* Councillor Craig Browne will remain as a ward councillor for Alderley Edge.



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Jonathan Follows
Friday 16th February 2024 at 5:15 pm
I have always believe that we pay our elected representatives too little, including our MPs. I wouldn't do their jobs for the money they receive. I understand the concept of service, and the idea that some jobs can be a step on the path to greater things, but the corollary is that we end up with independently wealthy or retired people the only ones willing to do the jobs, as Craig says.
He, and others like him, get my good wishes for the underpaid work they perform on our behalf.
Jonathan Follows
Friday 16th February 2024 at 5:20 pm
PS And, yes, they allow our unelected representatives such as the "Chief Executive" to be paid far too much, but I'm not quite sure what conclusion I can draw from that.

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