Am I Worth £4.36?

The very emotive subject of Councillors allowances (or pay) was discussed at October’s meeting of Cornwall Council. I think the fact that Councillor’s having to vote for their own allowance gets people more annoyed than the actual amount. Though, depending on the amount,  people can get equally annoyed, but I think you get my point. However, without a change to the Law, Councillors will still have to vote for their allowances. Which I believe is rather stupid.

Let’s make it clear, apart from a Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) a Councillor is not paid any more money. No attendance allowance, no other daily expenses (apart for mileage for journey’s to an official meeting – strict rules apply). The allowance is also taxed and subject to National Insurance. I have often heard you must get expenses too. Well I do not, apart from being able to claim for a meal at County Hall.

When a Council looks into the allowances, an Independent Review Panel (IRP) is set up and is made up of people not connected to the Council. It looks at the workload, time, duties etc of a Councillor and sets the rate according to its findings. It then makes its report to the Council who either accept the findings, or in most cases chooses not to accept anything due to the public backlash.

In the IRP report it recommended the rate of allowance should be £16,400. This is roughly a £4000 rise from the current (£12,250) allowance. Three years ago, the IRP recommended the allowance should be £14,600. This was turned down by the majority of the Council. I must also point out, the increase of any amount would start at the new Council post the elections in May 2013, not now.

So what is the cost to the elector for having a Councillor? Using the current allowance, taking the average number of electors in each Cornwall Council Division (3,344 people) I cost £3.60 (not including mileage) per elector per year, or 30 pence per month. So I would say I am good value, for the amount of work I currently do.

Now during the debate the various side of the argument said their piece. As always, it was interesting to hear why people should/should not vote for the allowance. Jude Robinson summed it up beautifully. She said many Councillors are saying “they don’t need the allowance” etc,  but as she pointed out they all claim the allowance.

To spare you from reliving the debate, the £16,400 IRP recommendation turned down, but an amendment was put forward for £14,600 which was the amount recommended by the IRP three years ago. This vote was carried 42 votes for, 29 votes against and four abstentions.

A further question that needs to be asked is what do you want a Councillor to be? Attending meetings; fighting their areas corner over getting the right services in their area; helping people with problems and offering advice on 101 subjects? Or do you want someone who cannot give everything to the role because they have to find money to pay for bills and the cost of living?

I have heard it too many times people say why has so few Councillors attended a briefing on a certain subject? In a lot of cases is because they have to work, or have other responsibilities that take them away from being a Councillor. Furthermore, I firmly believe no Councillor should be paid no more than the average wage (blog on the subject) of the area/Cornwall.

So ask yourself; am I now  worth £4.36, per year (36p per month), per elector? Is that a price worth paying for democracy?

22 comments

  • I think Councillors should be paid a level of wage that means they should not have to hold down other jobs to survive. And if this were to happen, not actually be allowed to hold down a second job at the same time as being a councillor. The whole thing should be a full time job and that would most probably allow for more informed and faster decision making by councillors.

    If that were to happen then a more diverse range to people could stand to be a councillor.

    At the moment, most of CC seems to be made up of retired, early retired or semi-retirees. Not exactly representative.

  • Gill Martin

    As I do not live within your electorate division I am not really eligible to answer the question, however, seeing as it has never stopped me from expressing an opinion in the past, my answer is ‘Yes’.

  • Worried Worker

    I watched your speech yesterday Andrew and I agreed with it. You may not remember me, but I installed your laptop shortly after the locals all those years ago when you were above the chip shop, so I know you’re not some retired toff sitting on a fat pension (unlike some of the others I visited).
    I’m all for a rise in Members allowances/pay/whatever as I agree with the feeling that in order to get a better cross-section of society, you need to attract all walks of life, not just those who can afford it.

  • A benefits assessor

    I think you’ve earned your money this year (and then some) with the JV work. Not sure about the others !

    😉

  • I listened to the debate in full and was impressed with the modest tone and attitude of the majority of councillors. I know something of what you do and believe councillors have taken the right course. No-one has mentioned that approval was given “in principle” and subject to further research and debate. Such a shame the media are trying to provoke an argument just for the sake of “news” and completely failed to note the important bits.

  • I listened to the debate in full and was impressed with the modest tone and attitude of the majority of councillors. I know something of what you do and believe councillors have taken the right course. No-one has mentioned that approval was given “in principle” and subject to further research and debate. Such a shame the media are trying to provoke an argument just for the sake of “news” and completely failed to note the important bits.

  • mick martyn

    Sorry Andrew but the answer to your question is a definite NO. Regardless of the morals of what Councillors should earn, in these times of austerity how can you come out so brash and pat yourself on the back for a 21% increase in wages when the Council staff around you have suffered cut after cut and are fearful of their jobs (especially more so if the JV doesnt go ahead) – you should be ashamed.

    As well as justifying the above please could you tell us all where the money for this rise is going to come from – presumably it wont be like other services in that this has to come from savings within service – no doubt you will cream it off another service (and in effect take at least 1 persons job), i hope you can justify it to their family.

    Also please can you justify the increase in mileage allowance from 40p to 45p against all staff having theirs reduced to 40p maximum and reducing to 20p after so many miles

    And finally, can you justify why the numpty members (noit all, some are more sensible) are entitled to now be the highest paid bunch of councillors in the country representing a county that is significantly lower paid?!? i suppose at least it will be more difficult for members to justify not paying their council tax or business rates.

    Sorry Andrew, you make this great big bravado about petitions and how you are leading the revolution (my words not yours) yet you smuggly justify this, i for one will not be putting a cross next to your name next May.

    Look forward to answers to the above as the electorate deserve to know…….

  • Obviously councillors need to earn a wage of some sort but the danger of an overly generous allowance is that we get career councillors who start to do it for the salary rather than to do something for the community.

  • No way Andy, at least 4.99 and free wrapping

  • Worried Worker

    Mick, just for a weeee second, can you look past your rabid (and a touch tedious) dislike of Andrew and explain how we can get a greater cross-section of society, people like (dare I say) you and I, to be Councillors on 12k a year? Or shall we leave all decision making to elderly retired folk who, I’m going out on a limb here, may not be feeling the pinch of austerity like those of us in work?

    While I’m hear; as a council worker, I (and the vast majority of my colleagues) sleep safer at night knowing that JV has been highlighted as a botch job and slowed down to a crawl. Thank god SOMEONE had the balls to stand up and call this thing out.

    Oh by the way, I shall be happy to counteract your vote in May.

  • Gill Martin

    If you don’t pay enough then you risk having some councillors that will spend too much time doing another paid job and not enough time putting commitment into their councillor duties. Would it not be better to leave it to freedom of conscience, those that can afford not to accept the increase do not take it and those that do need it in order to stand for councillor accept it, otherwise the reality of becoming a councillor for those on a low income may never happen. Surely it is better to be represented by councillors from a cross section of financial backgrounds.

  • Toni Mills

    It’s not the valuation, Andrew: it’s the timing and the method that are in question. I know the rules are different, and this is an exception, but councillors are normally excluded from discussing and debating matters in which they have a personal interest. Hard working councillors who treat their role as a full time job should be entitled to proper compensation. It’s just that someone else ought to decide.

  • A benefits assessor

    I’ve always wondered why some people spell their names with lower case letters – is it a sign of lower intelligence?

  • Andrew Wallis

    Dear Toni,

    A Councillor questioned this very point on have a personal interest. The Monitoring Officer said not.

    I do not think there is a Councillor who does not think voting for your own allowance is utterly nuts and should not happen. However, the Government will not do anything about it by changing the rules. The Local Government Association has also been asked, but does not seem interested.

    This is one subject I do not have the answers for.

  • On a serious note Andrew your question is not personally based on your own performance but about the reality of the access ability to the role from a broader base of the community. Forgetting the % increase and looking at reality the Member payment is still far below a figure many of us on the community would choose to accept for what, for many, is an activity which easily uses at least 70% of a recognised ‘working week’. Food for thought!

  • pasty muncher

    Mike, stop me if I’m wrong, but I thought Councillors were talking about pay increases coming in after the locals in May, therefore your “pat yourself on the back, you should be ashamed” comments are a little mis-guided seeing as Andrew might not be around after May. Still, as Chopper Read says, “never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn.”

  • Johns

    I’m happy with the increase. I do not want our Council to consist solely of those on a pension and those on a private income, simply because it isn’t possible to survive on the money. I want it to be a cross section of the body of people who the Council represents.

    As a result of recent events concerning the Strategic Partnership JV I’ve taken far more interest in the Council than I would normally. As a result I’m convinced that most Councillors give good value for money.

    In fact they appear to have also given some individuals who are paid considerably more, a valuable lesson in project management; in particular why a detailed options/risk appraisal at the outset of a project is invariably a good idea – along with open communication during it.

    I would suggest that if Cornwall is looking for economies, there are other more fitting salaries and expenses it might now save.

  • A.n.other Worker

    I may not feel as strongly as Mick but the sentiment is understandable. While I agree that Coucillors should be paid a fair wage (so they all should have to do a minimum number of hours a week to earn it, which you obviously do), it comes from the same funds that we are told aren’t sufficient to run the current Council.

    Staff are the lowest paid in the country and were so 3 years ago before the pay freeze. Do they not also deserve to be paid what they are worth? but we can’t because there’s no money. In fact the staff earning what they do is the basis for the JV where the staffing costs will be so much smaller in comparison to elsewhere (where we could sell our services). Or have I got the wrong idea there?

    I have yet to hear an answer to Mick’s comment about the rise in mileage from 40 to 45 while the entire staff are on 40p max. I can see absolutely no defense for that.

  • mick martyn

    Worried Worker – i agree that we need members with far more business accumen and intelligence than the majority we have got now but an increase to £14k isnt going to acheive that – the only way this would be done is to follow the singapore model and pay the equivalent of business leaders so becoming a member is a real career choice but obviously you carry than can far more if things go wrong. Re the JV, i’m sorry but you are delaying the inevitable, the options will be presented back and the most sensible and obvious one for the future of Cornwall will be voted through – the JV so get ready for your BT badge.

    Andrew – i raised some valid questions in my previous message – any chance of a response re the funding for this and justification of 45p per mile??

  • Andrew Wallis

    In answer to a few questions. My understanding, there are various mileage rates being paid in Cornwall Council. There are a few I am told near the 65p mark. But it seems the average (if I can call it that) is 35/40p. I have written to the head of HR asking for details of all the mileage rates paid to staff/Councillors, so I have the correct and up to date figures. Once I have them, I will post them.

    I also understand all staff including Councillors see a reduce rate after 3000 miles. Councillors can also only claim for official meetings. We cannot claim for visiting residents/officers etc. That has to be met out of the allowance. The mileage rate for Councillors just over two years ago, the mileage rate was reduced from 45p to 40p by Councillors.

    As for justification, the independent report gave their findings it should be this. Everyone can find their own options if that is right, or wrong. However, I believe all mileage rates in the Council should be the same. That either means raising those on lower, or Councillors keeping in line with staff.

  • a benefits assessor

    Can anyone please tell me why our beloved leaders are still going around holding drop-in sessions about the JV when it has been sent back for further consideration.

    What a waste of everyone’s time and considerable cash which apparently the service cannot afford!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Worried Worker

    Benefits Assessor, it’s because Cornwall has already been sold to BT: http://www.computerweekly.com/blogs/public-sector/2012/10/cornwall-already-doing-deals-w.html Andrew, might it be worth posting or commenting on the above link in order to spread the word?

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