A political storm has been whipped up over a parliamentary report claiming higher status, larger allowances and a greater frontline role should be given to Greater Manchester councillors.
The Communities and Local Government Committee said people from ‘all walks of life’ should be encouraged to stand for council and highlighted barriers currently preventing this.
They concluded councillors would benefit from more generous allowances and more support from council officers to reduce their workload.
More power should also be handed to them to increase their relevance with the electorate, according to the Westminster committee.
These steps should see council memberships become more diverse, with more younger councillors and representatives from ethnic minorities.
Minister without Portfolio Grant Shapps criticised the findings, claiming the ‘Labour’ plans are a sly move to increase their revenue from allowances, part of which their councillors donate to the party.
This was met with consternation from the committee’s chair Clive Betts MP, who said: “I am saddened by the reaction of Brandon Lewis and Grant Shapps who have stoked this negativity and undermined a serious concern of councillors from their own party.
“Allowances remain low and act as a deterrent for many considering whether to stand for election.
“For the health of local democracy, it is important that this issue does not become a national political football.”
The committee – which includes Rochdale Labour MP Simon Danczuk – also said councillors must work more with schools, voluntary organisations, local businesses and GPs to increase their community presence.
Mr Danczuk has long been a champion of reforming local government and recently told Mancunian Matters that councils must modernise to engage more with the public.
He said: “The average age of councillors in the UK is 60, which is totally unacceptable.”
In relation to the reaction from Mr Shapps, Mr Betts said: “We also found that people are put off by shallow political point scoring, which makes the response of Mr Lewis and Mr Shapps all the more disappointing.”