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What Factors Affect Councillors' Remuneration?

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  • Written By: John Lister
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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A councillor is an elected representative on a local authority, usually representing a town, city or county. There are several alternative names, such as alderman, or councilman. Exactly how councillors' remuneration works varies from country to country and often from council to council. Some are paid salaries while others only receive an allowance.

In many councils, being a councillor does not carry a salary. This is because it is formally seen as performing a civic duty rather than carrying out a job. Councillors often perform the role on a part-time basis, while continuing in their previous employment. This can be seen as an advantage as it means councillors stay in touch with the local business community.

In other locations, councillors do receive a salary. This is more common where the work is seen as a full-time role. In some cases, part of this salary may be exempt from income taxes.

Where councillor's remuneration does not involve a salary, there will usually be an allowance. In some cases this simply involves reimbursement for actual expenses, such as the travel costs in attending meetings. Some councils offer fixed allowances to cover costs such as communicating with local constituents. Many councils pay a large fixed allowance that is designed to compensate councillors for the time they spend on their work.

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In some set-ups, councillors' remuneration varies depending on the particular role a councillor fulfills. This may exist in a council that uses an executive rather than committee system. In the latter, the council is split into committees that deal with particular subjects, then meets together as a whole. In the former, the governing party appoints a cabinet member for each subject, with a cabinet meeting taking more of a day-to-day role and the entire council acting in a supervisory and oversight role. With such systems, it is possible for members of the cabinet to receive a higher remuneration than ordinary councillors.

Who decides how much councillors' remuneration should be also varies. A common system is for an independent panel to make a recommendation, taking into account living costs in the area. Councillors then vote whether to accept this recommendation, and may decide to take less or more money.

Where an independent source sets councillor's remuneration, it will commonly change in line with another factor such as inflation, or the pay of council employees. Where councillors set their own pay, the election cycle may be a factor. Generally councillors will be wary of awarding themselves high increases shortly before an election, as this may be viewed negatively by voters.

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