Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis has escalated, putting greater financial pressures on most of us.
While electricity rates and gas prices have eased a little, mortgage and interest rates are at highs not seen since the 1980s. And now, with the Gaza conflict in full swing too, the price of petrol and diesel is rising — and will likely remain high for as long as tensions continue in the Middle East.
It’s tough times for most of us, and we have to tighten our belts and try and make the pounds that we do have in our pockets go that little further.
Most too will have seen our incomes increase, either with salaries that are trying to keep pace with the rate of inflation, or through higher pricing for work performed by the self-employed.
Now a new report from the Independent Remuneration Panel of Wales — the supposedly independent body that recommends pay scales for our elected local government councillors across the nation — is recommending that wages paid to our county councillors rises by six per cent.
The panel is recommending that councillors‘ pay rises to £18,666 per annum.
On the face of it, and given that inflation is running at roughly two percentage points higher than that anyway, the six per cent rise seems not unreasonable.
That’s on the face of it.
But here’s the rub. That six per cent pay rise comes from county council revenues that are already facing drastic cutbacks — more so that councils have already been warned by the Welsh Government that there is a £430 million black hole in local government finances that will have to be covered off somehow.
Given that scenario — and that the pay rises will either have to come from our pockets or from savings achieved by cutting back services that are already grossly under-financed anyway — the six per cent increase is, quite frankly, out of line.
These are part-time positions, and most of our county councils have other revenue streams on which they depend to make their ends meet.
Most of us are not in the position where we can rely on a “nice little earner” to supplement our main incomes.
So no, in our opinion, our councillors shouldn’t get that pay rise. Not when we’re paying for it. Not when they’re providing less service.
Are they value for money? Mostly no.