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Tories reject Lib Dem move to limit extra pay for councillors

by Prue Bray on 24 November, 2017

Fun and games over councillor pay at Wokingham Borough Council meeting last night.

Three pieces of essential background:

  • Like most local authorities, Wokingham Borough Council has an independent panel made up of local residents who look at councillor pay. That panel reports to the full council, and councillors vote on their recommendations.
  • Councillor pay in Wokingham consists of: a basic allowance for being a councillor, £7,618 (£1000 or which is for IT and out of pocket expenses)  and a set of “special responsibility” allowances for councillors who carry out specific roles.  These vary from £1250 for members of the Planning Committee, Chair of Personnel Board and Chair of Standards Committee to £20,000 for the Leader of the Council.  In addition, councillors can be appointed to represent the council on an external organisation, known as an “outside body”.  Some of these outside bodies pay allowances.
  • A number of councillors have been made non-executive directors (NEDs) of council-owned companies. The process by which these appointments are made is a mystery.  The companies (with one or two exceptions) pay the NEDs something over £6000.

Now read on……

Up until last year, Wokingham operated a system whereby however many special responsibility allowances you were entitled to, if you were a member of the council executive you could only claim one.  In November 2016 the panel recommended that Wokingham should join the vast majority of councils and make a general rule that you could only claim one special responsibility allowance whether you were a member of the executive or not.   The Lib Dems voted to support the panel’s recommendations: why have a panel if you are going to ignore it?  The Conservatives not only voted against the tightening of allowances, they voted to loosen the existing arrangements, to allow executive members to claim more than one special responsibility allowance as well.

Cue the mass resignation of the entire panel.   For the second time.  (The first panel resigned a few years before when the Tories voted against their recommendation that the newly invented Deputy Executive members – all Conservatives of course – should not receive a special responsibility allowance;  do you see a bit of a pattern there?)

The Conservatives rightly got a pasting for their greed.

We move on a year.

At last night’s November full council meeting, the newly recruited independent panel presented this year’s report.  They recommended 3 things:

  • £100 extra on the basic allowance to cover the cost of parking at Shute End (the Tories had introduced charges for weekend and overnight parking in all car parks for everyone)
  • £61 extra on the basic allowance as an inflationary increase
  • …, yep, the cause of last year’s Conservative catastrophe, limiting special responsibility allowances to a maximum of one

Legally, they were not able to make a recommendation on the non-executive director pay for councillors, so we Lib Dems stepped in and I put in a motion for the council meeting agenda to commit councillors to the principle that if they were entitled to a both a special allowance and non-exec pay – or indeed, payment from an outside body –  they would only take one of them.

Well, at first it seemed that the Conservatives had learned from last year.  They joined the Lib Dems in voting to accept the panel’s recommendations.  In full.

They even went further.  Wary of the bad publicity that might result from accepting money to pay the parking charges which they are imposing on others, such as school governors who attend training at Shute End, the Conservative group said they would not be taking the extra £100.  In case you are wondering, we Lib Dems are also committed to not taking it, and we are going to give the £61 part of the increase to charity.

So far, so sensible.  But then, oh my goodness!

We got to my motion.  And the Conservatives voted against.  Yes, against.

Having made a big fuss about refusing to accept £100, and having managed to persuade themselves to vote to restrict special responsibility payments to one per person, normal service resumed and the Conservatives reverted to what we had come to expect of them:  they decided that they were entitled to keep the non-executive payments, worth £6000+ on top of any special responsibility allowance.

I should add that a number of Conservative councillors were not in the room for the vote, as they were obliged to leave due to the fact that they had a direct monetary interest in it.  We know how everybody voted, as we ensured it was a recorded vote.

So there we have it.  Having done the right thing in order to save themselves from further bad publicity early in the meeting, Conservative councillors simply could not bring themselves to remove their snouts from the trough completely.

I look forward to reminding voters about this.  Just before the local elections perhaps……


2 Responses

  1. nigel hunter says:

    The Tories will always vote agin Lib dem proposals unless it is to their advantage.

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