COUNCILLORS have voted against recommendations to increase top members’ pay, with the council leader saying “we don’t think it’s the right time”.

A report by the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) suggested that an increase of the Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA), which is given to members with an extra workload – such as being leader of the council or sitting in the cabinet, should be implemented to reflect “the workload and complexity” of the roles.

But all members at Southampton city’s full council disagreed, with civic head, Councillor Christopher Hammond, agreeing “in the current economic time” it was “not the right time” to push through these changes.

If approved, Cllr Hammond would have been on a yearly salary of £42,998, up from £35,631.

Nevertheless, the council did unanimously agree to increase Basic Allowance (BA), which is received by all councillors – some of whom work other jobs, to raise it in line with the living wage. Members will now receive £12,285 per year, up from £11,817.

They also agreed to introduce a maternity and paternity policy, allowing councillors to continue to receive their allowances, both BA and SRA, during and shortly following the birth of a child. They will also not be required to attend committee meetings during this period.

This is the first time since 2014 that the authority’s Member’s Allowance Scheme has been reviewed.

Cllr Hammond added: “We do need to consider the financial implications at a time when we have continued austerity.

“We have to balance the costs with the recommendation. We will not be taking the SRA as we don’t think it’s the right time.”

He added: “Politicians voting on their own salaries is never going to be a popular thing.

“We do need to get the best calibre [of politician] in the council and we need to recognise this with good allowances.

“In the current economic time, it’s seen as not very palatable with the public, as well as councillors.”

The recommendations from the IRP included an SRA rise for the council leader from £23,634 to £30,713, with cabinet members’ allowance rising from £11,817 to £15,336.

Both the council leader and cabinet members receive both SRA and BA, meaning, in total, cabinet members would have earned £27,621 a year, up from £23,634.

The report was produced as part of the authority’s requirement to “receive independent advice” on members’ allowances. Councillors from different parties and in different roles were interviewed as part of the process.

It was also noted that the SRA national average for council leaders in unitary authorities – like Southampton – is £31,969, with cabinet members receiving £14,342. The average for BA is £11,367.

However, neighbouring unitary authority Portsmouth City Council only pays its leader an SRA of £19,719, and its cabinet £7,669, with councillors being given a BA of £10,955.