1.1 The Panel comprises:
Alan Morgan (Chairman) Head of Human Resources at Wessex Water Plc
Malcolm Jenkins, Assistant Divisional Officer, Avon Fire and Rescue Service
Derek De Val, Retired Associate Director Audit Commission
Phillida Russell, Teacher
I would like to thank the panel members for freely giving both their time and commitment to this work.
1.2 In 2007 the Panel recommended a Scheme of Allowances which it was intended should stand until the 2011 Council Election unless the Council identified any fresh issues during that time which required a view from the Panel.
1.3 Two new issues were brought to the Panel`s attention this month:
(a) A request from the Avon Pension Fund Committee to review the level of the Special Responsibility Allowance for the independent co-opted members of that committee.
(b) A request from the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council for the definition of Approved Duties in the Scheme of Members Allowances to be extended to enable Ward duties to be eligible for payment of the Carer`s Allowance.
1.4 This report sets out the Panel`s recommendations on those two matters.
17th August 2009
2. THE PANEL’S RECOMMENDATIONS
RECOMMENDATION 1: The panel recommend that the Special Responsibility Allowance payable to the Independent Co-opted Members of the Avon Pension Fund Committee be increased to £600 per member per day (for an estimated 20 days work per year) on the basis that this is an amount consistent with comparable market levels.
RECOMMENDATION 2: The panel recommend that an additional Special Responsibility Allowance be set for the Independent Co-opted Member(s) of the Avon Pension Fund Committee who sit on the Investments Panel based on up to an additional 20 days work per year at the revised rate of £600 per day.
RECOMMENDATION 3: The panel recommend that the definition of Approved Duties in the Scheme of Members Allowances be extended to enable Ward meetings, consultations and surgeries to be eligible for payment of the Carer`s Allowance within the Scheme already approved, on the basis that all claims are supported by receipts signed by the carer and that documentary evidence of the Ward duties carried out is made available by the councillor if requested.
3. AVON PENSION FUND COMMITTEE INDEPENDENT MEMBERS` SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY ALLOWANCES
3.1 The panel considered a submission from the Strategic Director of Resources and Support Services, Bath and North East Somerset Council, the lead Authority for the Avon Pension Fund Committee. A copy is attached (Appendix 1).
3.2 The panel expressed the view that they did not feel qualified to comment on professional fees and would have preferred that the Pension Scheme Trustees dealt directly with the remuneration for the professional expertise of the independent members. However, they accepted that because the independent members are co-opted members of a local authority committee, legislation means that the panel is the only body that can start the process of deciding on their rate of remuneration by making a recommendation for consideration by the lead Authority.
3.3 The panel acknowledged the changes in market circumstances and the regulatory regime for local authority pension funds and the impact this had on the workload of the independent co-opted members since that role was introduced and the allowances decided in 2006 and that the time commitment required from them for this work was likely to grow in the coming years. The panel would have liked to have obtained the views of the Independent Allowances Panels of the other local authorities involved with the Avon Pension Fund on the proposed increases but recognised that this would be a complex process and not achievable to enable the Council to consider a recommendation within a realistic timescale.
3.4 The panel accepted that a daily rate was a reasonable basis for calculating the level of special responsibility allowances for the independent co-opted members of the committee and agreed that it should be related to current market rates.
3.5 The panel reviewed the comparator information made available by the Strategic Director (Appendix 2). They considered that, whilst the comparative data was limited which made the judgement more subjective than was desirable, the specialist nature of the work involved and the relatively few numbers of people nationally acting in this capacity made it unlikely that a wider range of information could be obtained within a realistic timescale.
3.6 The panel concluded that, having regard to the factors referred to above, the increase proposed from £300 to £600 per day was reasonable.
3.7 The panel recommended that the proposed increases be approved.
4. CARER`S ALLOWANCES FOR COUNCILLORS
4.1 The panel considered a submission from the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Bath and North East Somerset Council requesting that the definition of Approved Duties in the Scheme of Members Allowances be extended to enable Ward duties undertaken by councillors to be eligible for payment of the Carer`s Allowance. A copy is attached (Appendix 3).
4.2 The panel acknowledged that councillors faced particular challenges when they were required to balance their carer responsibilities with their role in the community. They considered that people could be discouraged from becoming or continuing as councillors if adequate support was not available to them. This would impact adversely on attracting people from a cross-section of the community to serve as councillors.
4.3 The panel decided to recommend that the Carer`s Allowance should be extended to cover Ward work involving community meetings (PACT, residents associations etc); community consultations; site visits with officers/residents/businesses/ voluntary organisations; advertised Ward surgeries.
4.4 The panel considered that for the categories of Ward work for which the Carer`s Allowance would be payable it should be a requirement that:
(a) As under the present system every claim is supported by a receipt signed by the carer.
(b) Every claim should be based on documentary evidence of the duties carried out being in existence and made available by the councillor if requested. This is so that the work done can be verified and could include related correspondence, diary entries and notes of meetings etc.
4.5 The panel did not support the suggestion that an amount of `unauditable` casework should be included.
4.6 The panel have previously received submissions from councillors asking that the definition of Approved Duties in the Scheme of Members Allowances be extended to enable Ward duties undertaken by councillors to be eligible for payment of travel allowances. The panel did not consider that their recommendation in respect of the carer`s allowance should alter the current position which does not make Ward duties eligible for travel allowances. They considered that travel allowances for Ward duties should continue to be covered in the Basic Allowance payable to all councillors.
4.7 The panel were aware that in the current Scheme the carer may be a professional carer or another family member provided that in all cases allowances up to the prescribed limits are payable only upon a signed receipt provided by the carer. The panel indicated that they were in agreement with this arrangement.
4.8 The panel noted that the Carer`s Allowance had remained at its current level for some time and considered that if the Council wished to take the opportunity to review it, that should be done having regard to current market rates and a mechanism agreed to ensure that this was reflected in any future reviews.
Carers' Allowance – Current Rates at August 2009
Reimbursement of actual costs incurred up to the following maxima:
Childcare (including After School Clubs)
Up to £6.00 per hour/per child
Childcare for a child with a disability or special needs
Up to £8 per hour/per child
Care for an adult with a disability or ill health
Up to £8 per hour/person