Headlines: January 4th, 2008

An independent panel has been set up in Wales to review councillors’ allowances. It will look at both the range of payments and their maximum levels. The five members of the panel will issue their first report by the end of July.

They will outline the duties and responsibilities that attract allowances and will set maximum levels with the recommendations being different for each local authority. The permanent panel will then be expected to update the report at least annually. Initially the members will meet monthly but after the first report that will become less frequent.

The panel will be chaired by Richard Penn, the retired chief executive of Bradford City Council, who began his local government career in Glamorgan. He is currently Commissioner for Standards for the National Assembly for Wales. He will be joined by Dr Declan Hall, lecturer in Local Government and Politics at the Institute of Local Government Studies at Birmingham University, who has a particular interest in member remuneration and support work, Gareth Newton, who was Director of Lifelong Learning with Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council until his recent retirement, John Bader, a former Deputy Chief Executive of Housing for Wales and former Director of the Social Justice and Regeneration Department of the Welsh Assembly Government and the medical sociologist, Dr Rita Austin, who has extensive experience of public service in health, education and criminal justice.

The Welsh Assembly Minister for Social Justice and Local Government, Brian Gibbons, said, “Setting councillors’ allowances needs to be open and independent if it is to have the confidence of the public. The panel will provide this and introduce a more flexible approach to that available in the confines of the current regulations.”