IT WILL be curtain up for the return of in-person Shropshire Council meetings next week when councillors will swap the Shirehall chamber for the Theatre Severn auditorium.

With Covid legislation allowing for virtual meetings having expired last week, all 74 members will sit socially distanced in the theatre audience.

It is the first face-to-face meeting for the council since March 2020.

The stage will be set for the election of a new council leader, after former leader Peter Nutting lost his seat in one of the biggest shocks of last week’s local elections, though the ruling Conservative group will decide ahead of the meeting who to put forward for the role.

Councillors will then be faced with their first big decision of the new council term – a vote on whether to increase their own allowances.

A report recommending the basic allowance of £ £11,514 be upped to £12,000 a year – with larger pay rises for higher-ranking members – was presented to the full council in February, but was deferred until after the election to let the new cohort have a say.

The report, prepared by an independent remuneration panel, recommends the council leader’s additional allowance ‘multiplier’ be increased from two to 2.25, which, when added to the basic allowance, would take their total pay from £34,542 to £39,000.

The deputy leader’s multiplier is also proposed to increase from 1.25 to 1.5, representing a rise in total pay from £25,907 to £30,000, while there are also higher rises proposed for the chairmen of some committees.

But not all roles would see an increase – with the extra allowance for the council chairman, speaker, and deputy portfolio holders to be cut.

The report also proposes increasing the amount councillors can claim to cover the cost of paying for care of a dependant child or adult while carrying out council business, to make the role more accessible to “younger and more diverse” councillors.

The meeting, on Thursday, May 20, will start at 10am and there will be limited public attendance permitted. Anyone wishing to attend is asked to contact the committee officer by emailing to check seat availability.

The meeting will also be live-streamed on the council’s website.

As well as the council leader, a deputy leader, chairman, spearker, cabinet members and deputy cabinet members will also be appointed, and the political balance of different council committees agreed.