Salaries & allowances of British mayors
By Andrew Stevens, City Mayors Fellow
ON THIS PAGE: Public service ethos | Allowances of metro mayors | Allowances of city mayors
ON OTHER PAGES: Elected mayors in England | Salaries of German mayors | Salaries of Italian mauors | Salaries of Japanese mayors | Salaries of French mayors | Local government index | Mayors, parties, politics
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Britain’s public service ethos
curbs elected mayors’ pay
December 2021: In the UK local politics has long been seen as community service rather than a professional career and this is reflected in the salaries paid to elected mayors. By contrast, senior officials in city administrations are often paid more than double the mayor’s salary. For instance, the Metro Mayor of the Tees Valley receives £65,000 per year, yet the authority’s chief executive takes home a more impressive £170,000, a gap of over £100,000. While mayoral and councillors’ remuneration is recommended by independent external advisers, councils are free to set their own political pay rates, though many reduce or freeze against the recommended level, mindful of local voters’ reactions.
In contrast, other political offices in the UK pay comparably more, with the basic salary for a Member of the UK Parliament (MP) set at £82,000 although (infamously) they receive much more when travel and accommodation expenses are taken into account. The Head of the UK Civil Service, the Cabinet Secretary, is paid £200,000 a year, more than the Prime Minister himself on £161,000. Though a rare case of acting as a serving MP alongside his duties as the Metro Mayor of South Yorkshire, Dan Jarvis receives £79,000 on top of his parliamentary salary, though this is then voluntarily donated to local charities to avoid him receiving two pay packets from the public purse. Tees Valley’s Ben Houchen received only £37,000 during his first term as Metro Mayor as this figure was agreed by local leaders ahead of the first election in 2017 as the median of the rate payable at the time to other council leaders in the region. The combined authority has since agreed to raise his pay to a similar amount paid to other northern metro mayors for his second term on account of his increased responsibilities.
Local authorities in the UK have a legal duty to publish the salaries (known as allowances) paid to both elected mayors and ordinary councillors, which they post online. Allowances are set annually by the full council, acting on the advice of an external independent remuneration panel (also required by law) recruited by the council (usually consisting of retired officials and academics). The council may however disregard the rates suggested by the panel (arrived at by considering local factors, workloads and the ‘going rate’ for other posts), especially if the authority has implemented pay freezes and lay-offs for its regular workforce.
Most councils set a Basic Allowance for all members (to reimburse reasonable expenses and childcare) and an additional Special Responsibility Allowance to recognise those with additional executive responsibilities such as the Mayor and members of their Cabinet (while some, but confusingly not all, councils combine both for the Mayor). The Basic Allowance is not seen as a salary and in smaller rural authorities can be quite low. Under its separate legislation, the Greater London Authority may set a one-off 'resettlement' payment for the Mayor of London on retirement or loss of office, but this facility is not available to other elected mayors in England.
There are two types of elected mayor in England (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have none). Firstly, the Mayor of London at the Greater London Authority and the nine so-called Metro Mayors of the combined authorities. The second type is the elected mayors of local authorities (municipalities) in England, which have existed since 2002. Broadly speaking, the Metro Mayors do not provide local services in the same way that local authority mayors are responsible for as heads of local authorities, but rather oversee regional transport and economic development. The Mayors of Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire however act as the local Police and Crime Commissioner (separately elected to elsewhere across England) and this is reflected in both of their salaries.
Finally, in assembling the data below there was some difficulty in terms of local authorities not publicly stating mayors’ salaries in some cases but instead burying these inside obscure reports (particularly at metro mayor level) on websites or applying inconsistent criteria to listing allowances (e.g. not stating if mayoral allowance and basic allowance is combined). Since our first article was published in 2019 we have been contacted by a number of UK public bodies seeking more reliable data and advice in setting their own remuneration and feel that a common framework by government for reporting members allowances publicly (as they do with council chief executives) would benefit future local leaders and those who advise them.
All data shown has been cross-referenced across a range of sources and is to the best of our knowledge accurate at the time of writing in December 2021.
Annual allowances of metro mayors
Annual allowances of city mayors
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