Friday, 18 October 2013

Members allowances - Put up or shut up

The debate on whether we should consult on all up elections took some interesting twists and turns but in my view one of the more facile contributions came from Liberal Democrat Leader Graham Longley who suggested that he had offered to voluntarily give up £1K of his member allowance if everybody did likewise. This is not the first time that Graham has made this comment - no doubt intended to demonstrate what a jolly good chap he is and as usual it received theatrical nods of approval from Independent Leader Martin Terry. My views on allowances are well known - we have them assessed by an Independent Panel and there is no point in that process if the recommendations which are made are then ignored. However if there are members who believe that they are not worth the allowance or that they are morally obliged to reduce it then there are at liberty to notify the finance section and their allowances will be reduced accordingly with the balance falling back in to the pot. So perhaps it is surprising (or not!) that neither Graham or Martin, or indeed any other member, has taken this action. If I was a cynic I would say that the offer is only made safe in the knowledge that other members would choose not to match it and therefore it is intended as a crowd pleaser without financial cost. It is also interesting that it is only the opposition leaders who receive an additional allowance which is based not on an independent evaluation of the work they carry out but as a straight multiplier based on the numer of group members they have. Perhaps this is why Graham and Martin feel that they are being over remunerated. In any event if voluntary reductions were made it would not be possible to base a revenue outgoing on them as it would be within the power of any member to choose to reinstate to the full level. I am happy to debate the principle of allowances or their current rates with anybody but in the meantime it is time for Graham and Martin to either to make the concession or stop trying to gain cheap political points by what is a false gesture.


  1. For the record, I have no objection to taking a cut BUT only if it applies to every member.

    However, I have a dislike for hair-shirt politics, and am not prepared to martyr myself (not least because I see no reason why I should be valued less than anyone else in the chamber).

    I would say, though, that I am pleased that you have given up on the idea of further rewarding us - no more council teas I note!

  2. Thank you for this feedback. I happen to think that the allowances are reasonable and reflect the hard work that most councillors undertake. I get tired of those who repeatedly offer to hand something back but only based on preconditions which they know will not be met. Either the allowances are fair so keep them or if any member thinks they are inappropriate choose not to take them but stop trying to make cheap political points. (Incidentally this is not aimed at you as I am not aware that you have been one of those repeatedly making the point). When I was on the council for 6 years in the 90's admittedly allowances were far less but I refused to accept them during my entire period on the council because I thought they were inappropriate for the duties a district councillor had in those days. Having made the decision I rejected the allowance without trying to suggest anyone else should do likewise. I remain of the view that teas should be provided but have never objected to paying a reasonable sum. It is ridiculous for those of us who are at work until 5.00 or later and then are dure at the Civic for a lengthy 6.30 meeting that there is nowhere to eat either in the Civic Centre or nearby. In my experience the options are a quick sandwich or a very late dinner neither of which is ideal.