WECA Metro Mayor to receive £20k pay hike

By Midsomer Norton & Radstock   |   Editor   |
Sunday 6th February 2022 9:00 am
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The West of England Metro Mayor is set to receive a £20,000 pay hike over four years – about 30 per cent – to exceed the salary of an MP.

An independent remuneration panel is recommending a £5,000 rise every year for the next four years, on top of usual annual salary awards.

Backdated to last May when Labour’s Dan Norris was elected into office as head of the West of England Combined Authority (Weca), it takes his income from £67,000 to £87,000 by 2024/25, which is also higher than Bristol City Mayor’s wage.

The panel’s report, which was expected to be approved last week, also recommends slashing the allowance for the Deputy Mayor’s role, which is currently unfilled, from about £15,000 to zero and paying two Committee Chairs £5,625 for the first time.

It said the Metro Mayor at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, “generally regarded as a near comparator” of WECA, earned £95,600, which will go up to £97,500 from April, while the average allowance for all Combined Authority Mayors was £73,600.

The report said: “The panel has accepted that the Mayor’s allowance falls well short of what is reasonable for such a prominent regional decision-making role, with significant strategic budget and service responsibility.

“The allowance is also at a level that the panel believes is unlikely, in the future, to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds willing to make the career/personal sacrifices necessary, given the legal restrictions on the post-holder.

“It is, however, recognised that an immediate increase to anything approaching the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough level was unlikely to carry support either within the authority or among the electorate.

“Equating the allowance to that of a Member of Parliament was considered but evidence shows that the personal powers and responsibilities of the Mayor of a Combined Authority are substantially in excess of those of an MP.

“We believe, therefore, that a sustainable and reasonable solution lies in an allowance pitched at the mid-point between the current salary of a Member of Parliament (£81,932) and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough 2021/22 allowance (£95,600). That mid-point is £88,766.”

The panel proposed a phased move of £5,000 a year and then return to a basic annual pay award only in 2025/26.

The report said a previous review in 2019 concluded an allowance of £65,000 was not sustainable for the position because of the Mayor’s growing responsibilities and the fact the post-holder was “statutorily prevented from engaging in any other paid employment and had no access to pension rights”.

It said several key points emerged in the panel’s latest review during an interview with Mr Norris last October. According to the report, these included:

“The role and responsibilities fell somewhere between those of an MP and a Government Minister (a view echoed by the earlier review);

“The WECA Mayor represented over ten times the number of constituents of an MP; “Unlike a minister, there was no civil service structure available to support the Mayor’s role which consequently was more onerous;

“Recognition of the significant work and collaborative engagement with constituent authorities in relation to decision taking;

“And the strategic leadership required in a context of sometimes competing and conflicting demands.”

Cllr Winston Duguid told WECA’s overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, January 24th, that he was all in favour of the pay increase.

The committee Chairman and Lib Dem B&NES Councillor said: “I feel quite strongly about the Metro Mayor’s salary and I find it an anomaly he’s paid less than Bristol’s Mayor or an MP.

“I find that very strange, for something that’s getting increasingly complex and difficult, and I’m very supportive about the Metro Mayor’s position.

“To get someone really good who isn’t at the end of their career, whether they’re in the charitable sector or private or public sector, the remuneration has been an inhibitor on some of the people who’ve wanted to do the job, so I feel very strongly about this.”

Committee member Bristol Labour Cllr, Steve Pearce, said: “The panel has benchmarked the role but if this was a business and you were recruiting a Chairman of the board or a Chief Exec, I suspect pay might be a bit higher than it is here.

“There is never a good time to talk about raising politicians’ pay.”

Mr Norris said after the meeting: “Quite rightly this is a matter for the independent panel.

“I do not have, nor would it be appropriate for me to have, a vote on this.”

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees received a £9,000 pay rise in May 2020 to match an MP’s salary at the time, £79,468.

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