LEAD councillors in Reading will be receiving a significant pay rise in their allowances following a vote at last night's Full Council meeting (June 25).

An independent remuneration panel had recommended changes to the councillors’ allowances scheme at Reading Borough Council (RBC).

The Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA) payments have been amended so that the amount paid to council leader Jason Brock will be £18,500 - an increase of £11,496 per year.

Cllr Brock currently receives £7,004 per year, compared to Bracknell Forest Council leader Paul Bettison, who gets paid £28,954.

The amount paid to deputy leader Tony Page will increase to £11,300.

Addressing the council, cllr Jason Brock said: "Taking informed decisions and developing the strategies and the policies that underpin them necessarily takes time and requires some of us to take additional time and make sacrifices in our lives.

"Over time, the SRAs in Reading have become not only the lowest in Berkshire, but the lowest among all the unitary authorities in this country - far lower than many lower-tier authorities."

Quoting the panel, he added: 'The SRAs are now far too low for the level of responsibilities attached to the role' and stated that many councillors are "cautious" about taking on special responsibilities, despite the fact that it is necessary for members to do so.

The panel's full report can be viewed here

"But they are cautious because the time required hampers their career prospects," he added.

"I have known many colleagues who have had to make sacrifices at work - turning down opportunities, turning down promotions, taking unpaid leave - in order to fulfill the requirements of their roles."

Responding to the motion, Conservative councillor for Thames ward, Jeanette Skeats, said: "In the past I have said in this chamber that I do think it is unfair when we compare Reading with other authorities.

"I honestly believe that all our lead members work very hard.

"I know exactly what goes on behind the scenes and I do not think a lot of people do who have never experienced that."

Summarising her decision, she said: "For me it is uncomfortable because I have always suggested and said in this chamber that there should be an increase for lead members to bring us a little bit closer to the other authorities and what they are receiving in their allowances, but this level of increase recommended by the panel is too high.

"I appreciate the motion that has come before us tonight from the Labour group, but it doesn't go far enough in our opinion, so I'm afraid we cannot support this tonight."

Green Party cllr Rob White said: "Green councillors will be voting against Labour's proposed increase to the councillor's allowances budget of £100,000.

"We don't support increasing the amount paid to the council by 180 per cent in a single year - it is too much.

"There are some things we support, but not the approach taken of SRAs

"If we want to get more young councillors onto the council - which I definitely support - I think increasing the base allowance that councillors get is a better approach."

He later added: "This money could be better spent for residents, not councillors."

Speaking on behalf of Reading Liberal Democrats, cllr Ricky Duveen said: "We are a long way behind not just our neighbours, but most councils in England.

"I am happy to support this motion - I don't think the levels being suggested are too high and if you compare them to other councils we are not going overboard."

During the vote, 28 councillors voted for the changes, while 12 voted against.