When the Council was considering changing from a cabinet system to a committee system there was much talk about how it would give backbench members more of a role. The reality appears to be giving more Conservative councillors the opportunity to gain a special responsibility allowance. This is the allowance paid on top of a basic councillors allowance of £10,597. The Leader Cllr Richard Cornelius receives an additional allowance of £34,000 which is probably fair enough given that the role does take up a great deal of time. The deputy leader Cllr Dan Thomas receives an extra £27,000 which does seem excessive but that has always been the practice. Where I start to have a real objection is the number of chairmen (they are all called Chairman regardless of actual gender) and vice chairmen who now get an allowance.
- 17 Chairmen receive a special allowance of £15,333
- 5 Chairmen receive a special allowance of £8,852
- 3 Chairmen of the residents forums receive a special allowance of £2,368
- In addition the Vice Chairmen of 8 committees also receive an allowance of £2,368
Given that the Conservative group have always held all the Chairman and Vice Chairmen posts, this means that it will be possible to allocate a special allowance to every single one of the 32 Conservative councillors.
Looking at what councillors have to do for this special allowance, the work load does seem to vary. For the Residents Forums the Chairmen have to chair 4 meetings a year which means that for each meeting they receive £592 for a committee which lasts a maximum of 2 hours. The area sub committees also meet 4 times a year immediately after the residents forums. The chairmen of these committees, Cllrs Sowerby, Old and Gordon therefore receive £2,213 for each meeting they chair. That strikes me as completely over the top.
We then look at the highest paid chairmen. For example, Cllr Davey chairs the Housing Committee which meets 4 times a year. While accepting that there is some work to be done outside the committee meetings, £3,833 per meeting does seem completely out of proportion given that it is on top of the £10,597 basic allowance.
From my perspective this entire exercise has been about jobs for Tory councillors and exceptionally well paid jobs to boot. These councillors may claim they are running the council but in reality there is a team of highly paid senior executives earning six figure salaries to do that job.
What also strikes me as bizarre is the fact that for all the committees holding meetings most are simply talking shops with virtually all the power resting in just one committee, Policy and Resources details of which you can read here.
On a day when local authority workers are striking over low pay, it does seem rather offensive that so many Conservative councillors are planning to reward themselves with so much for so little.