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.