Friday, July 13, 2007

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Despite the photo, I really hope that one day we can take the issue of payments for councillors outside the political arena. I find it faintly ridiculous that we have to vote on our own salaries.

An independent panel looking at London-wide allowances recommended a new allowance structure for London Councils. Implementing this in full here in Sutton would have cost over £200,000. Sensibly, this was not recommended. Instead various changes were put before the Executive for approval that would bring the pattern of allowances in line with the rest of London, if not the amounts with everyone getting a minimum of 50% of the recommended allowance.

However I have two main issues with the amounts approved. Firstly the new Local Committee chairs will receive £9,762 the same as at present. However, there are going to be two extra Local Committees, thus increasing the overall budget by £19,524. Far better to divide the existing budget for the current four chairmen between the six. This would avoid the anomaly of the Local Committee chairmen receiving a whopping 185% of the Independent Panel's recommendation. The LibDems are pushed into a corner by their own backbenchers as they are not prepared to take a pay cut. To my mind, the allowance is recompense for time spent on the job, not a salary to maintain a particular lifestyle or top-up a pension.

My second issue is the retrospective payments proposed to be made to the two Deputy Leaders. We were lectured about the fact that the LibDems had a group meeting to appoint people within two days of the election. The one problem with this has come home to roost. There were several new councillors who had to vote for a Deputy Leader from a slate of people that they didn't know very well. It ended in a dead-heat and rather than Scissors, Paper, Stone or even an arm wrestle, they decided to have two deputies. This year they have formalised the two roles and divided up the allowances such that it has no effect on the budget. However, they are due to be paid nearly £6000 each in a one-off payment to cover last year. Nice work if you can get it!

In a year where £5m of cuts fell on Council services, £12,000 payment paid out a whole year sends a dreadful message to taxpayers.

5 comments:

Hubert said...

Well here doesn't the Tories hypocrisy come into focus?

Isn't there a recommendation for the deputy leader of the opposition - ie the no.2 in the Tory ranks - to receive an enhanced allowance also? Isn't this to be paid for by the taxpayer or is Cllr Scully conveniently forgetting this in the hope that no-one will actually notice? Nice work if you can get it says he, but if his deputy is granted and accepts an enhancement that's even more money out of the tax-payers purse. Over to you Cllr Scully.

Scully said...

You seem to have conveniently ignored a chunk of my argument. I am not against increased allowances if they are paid to reflect time spent on council work.

Failing to have a reasonable scheme means that only retired and some self-employed people are able to stand for election. If it can be demonstrated that the Opposition Deputy spends the time working on Council business then I am satisfied that he should be paid. The independent panel report, despite recommending very high allowance, still retained an assumption that the first few hours spent per week are done on a purely voluntary basis.

Let's face it, no-one stands for council for the allowances since there are far easier ways of earning a better living.

Hubert said...

Er - yes Cllr Scully, but I am in receipt of the "Conservative party manifesto" for the local elections in May 2006 which quite clearly stated "we will cut total councillors allowances by £100,000 per annum".

Not much sign of that now is there? Unless of course, you and your ilk have joined the rank of politicians who like to have their snouts in the trough.

Scully said...

Now you've confirmed that the myopic view of UKIP is at work. The manifesto did not state anything of the sort, instead making two points on the subject, saying:

"We will not cut any core services but will offer the very best value for money by reducing administrative costs and concentrating on areas where you want to see your money spent.

We will reduce the total cost of Councillors’ allowances and Council committees and divert the funds to crucial front line services."

Hubert said...

Okay - so I quoted it wrong, but it does say "We will reduce the total cost of Councillors' allowances", and that's a pledge that plainly is not now being honoured.

By the way I am a floating voter - not UKIP, usually Lib-Dem.