Derry Councillors reject allowance increase in solidarity with citizens

For the second year in a row Derry City and Strabane councillors have rejected an increase in councillors’ Basic Allowance following the updated Scheme of Allowances from the Department for Communities. 

The Local Government Circular issued recommended the annual basic allowance increase from £15,071 to £15,757.

Speaking at the Governance & Strategic Planning committee however, SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell made the proposal to reject the increase saying: “The SDLP’s position is that we should reject this pay rise. We rejected last year’s pay rise and our position has not changed since.

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“Families across this city and district are struggling with the cost of living. We have council workers who have been recently on strike arguing for better pay and better terms and conditions and people in general are getting it really, really tight. We shouldn’t accept the pay rise. We should stand in solidarity with families across the city and district and reject this increase. Accepting it would be a slap in the face for families and individuals struggling to make ends meet. So, we shouldn’t accept the pay rise. I’m going to make a formal proposal and that is that we do not adopt the updated Scheme of Allowances, excluding the Dependants’ Carers’ Allowance uplift. In terms of the basic allowance for councillors, we should not be increasing that, but the increase in place for carers – yes, we should. So, that’s a formal proposal.”

Local Councillors Rory Farrell (SDLP), Emmet Doyle (Aontú) and Sandra Duffy (Sinn Féin) and their Council colleagues rejected the NI Department-set Councillor's allowance increase.

Agreeing with the previous speaker, Sinn Féin Councillor Sandra Duffy added: “Last year we did reject it and I’m more than happy to reject it on the same basis this year. We have been sitting in this chamber for some time discussing the cost of living crisis that has been facing families and workers right across this city and district and for us to award ourselves a pay rise at this time would be a slap in the face to them.”

Stating there was ‘no justification for a pay rise’, Aontú Councillor Emmet Doyle added: “It would be unthinkable to award ourselves a pay rise and it would be unjustifiable.”

Although ‘agreeing with the sentiments’, DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock said: “There are some in council who have other jobs and it needs to be remembered some don’t and they have a crisis of their own because this may be their only source of income. I think it should be remembered and those who spoke previously all have other jobs.”

Whilst supporting the proposal, UUP Alderman Ryan McCready felt ‘member McClintock does make a good point’. He added: “We don’t set out our own allowances, they are set by the Dept. for Communities and the recommendations come forward and we can either accept or reject and I will reject it today but just because you are elected does not mean you are immune to the cost of living crisis.”

The proposal gained unanimous support and will go forward to be ratified at Full Council.

By Gillian Anderson

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Local Democracy Reporter