Top Tories Will Get Big Increases – Passed By 17 Votes To 4

July

29

18 comments

The Council voted tonight by 17 votes to 4 to give big increases in allowances to the councillors in the cabinet. All 17 who voted “for” were Conservatives. All 4 who voted ‘against’ were Lib Dems. Hawkwell Conservative Derek Stainsby asked for his abstention to be recorded.

The only speakers in favour were Terry Cutmore and Jeremy Thomass. Chris Black and Chris Lumley spoke against. Chris Black gave three reasons:

  • These increases would not improve the quality of the cabinet members. If councillors thought it would attract younger business-type people to the council , this wasn’t true. These people would stand not for the extra money, but if they thought they could make a difference and still fit council around normal working life.
  • The cost of these proposals was nearly ?50,000. He warned the council not to increase car parking charges to pay for this!
  • When the government looked at the structure of local government in Essex, they might abolish Rochford District because it was too expensive to run. Some inspector would say “abolishing Rochford would save half a million pounds in cabinet costs over 10 years”
  • Chris Lumley, then spoke, saying he would also vote against – he was against the whole cabinet system.

    In the end the scheme was passed by 17 votes to 4 – which means that less than half the council supported it. There were a lot of abstentions.

    ============================
    Allowances have been increased each year in recent times. (Although under the Lib Dem administration in the 1990s we cut them by 10 per cent). This is a summary of the situation:

    Ordinary councillors:

    5 years ago – ?1500 per year
    This Year – ?4250 per year
    After tonight – still ?4250

    Senior Councillors (typically) :
    5 years ago – ?1500 + ?3000 Chairmans allowance = ?4500
    This Year – ?4250 + ?3175 Portfolio Holders allowance = ?7375
    After tonight – ?4250 + ?8500 Portfolion Holders allowance = ?12750

    Deputy Tory Leader (currently Mavis Webster):
    5 years ago – ?1500 + ?183 Deputy’s allowance = ?1683 (possibly ?3000 more if chaired a committee)
    This Year – ?4250 + ?4250 Deputy Leader’s allowance = ?8500
    After tonight – ?4250 + ?12750 Deputy Leader’s allowance = ?17000

    Tory Leader (currently Terry Cutmore)
    5 years ago – ?1500 + ?1651 Leaders allowance = ?3161 (possibly ?3000 more if chaired a committee)
    This year – ?4250 + ?8500 leaders allowance = ?12750
    After tonight – ?4250 + ?21250 leaders allowance = ?25500

    Note that Cllr Mrs Mavis Webster is deputy leader, and Cllr Peter Webster is also in the cabinet.

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  • If this scheme was passed by 17 votes to 4 and less than half the council supported it does this mean that some of those abstentions will still benefit from the increase regardless of not supporting it!

    If so, should they not consider a “Councillors’ Pot” that way they could pay in the extra allowances they earn, but haven’t voted for and don’t agree with and these could be shared at the end of the financial year between much needed Charities and Community Projects in the District, after all, there are many that are struggling and need funds!!!!!!!, £50,0000 would go a long way to helping quite a few.

  • I’m sorry for my ignorance but what exactly do “The Cabinet” do?

    As a central government employee I certainly won’t be getting more than a 2 or 3% payrise – probably not paid for months…

    I smell a strong whiff of “sleaze”… are these the same Councillors that rubber stamped ASDA’s planning application??

    Not at all impressed of Rayleigh. Grrrrrrrr!!!

  • I know for a fact that some of the Southend Tories would like Rochford under their wing and these increases will only push local government further in that direction. What the leader and his councillors of Rochford Council is doing is giving Southend more ammunition. Have the council actually explained how they are going to improve the residents life by giving themselves these huge rises? Are they now going to be on call 24 hours a day? Are they going to make their meetings and local government more transparent?

    I would like the leader (or a councillor) to come out and explain why they need these rises when the rest of the population have to live under the threat of recession or worse, the threat of redundency. Please Rochford Council, for once break ranks and explain to us proles, why you deserve these rises. If there is silence, I guess there is no answer!

  • TWR -. Mmm how to explain?
    You can find full details on the coucnil website at http://www.rochford.gov.uk/rdc/main.asp?page=1046&atoz=1

    It used to be that councils were running by committees. So you would have. say, a leisure committee of 16 or 20 councillors that discussed and voters on issues relating to parks, Clements Hall etc. Even if you were a councillor who wasn’t on the committee you could at least speak. It was a little bit cumbersome at times but everyone could make their point – and it was easy for councillors to understand what was really going on and represent their residents.

    Now we have a cabinet system.. It’s officially called an “executive” but it operates like the cabinet in London. Instead of a leisure committee you have one man – in this case Cllr Keith Gordon. He basically decides leisure policy.

    There are eight members of the cabinet , each with their own area of responsibility. Sometimes they meet as a committee, but even then ordinary councillors can’t speak on behalf of their residents- they could do, if the Conservatives would allow it, but they don’t. So we ‘ordinary’ councillors find alternative methods of looking after our wards.

    (by the way, planning applications are still dealt with by a committee of all 39 councillors)

    So these are the 8 people who are going to get more money. They didn’t rubber-stamp Asda (sometime we are going to have to write a special page giving a full timeline on what happened). There’s no sleaze, they are just being giving what I think is an unnecessary amount of money.

    I wouldn’t like ordinary councillors to be given much more money either. Can I explain why? When I started off , we were given only a few hundred pounds a year. That was useful – I spent some of mine on paying for Focus leaflets. Or maybe I wanted to spend £20 on a book on local government, get a camera film of parking problems developed etc . Even pay for a gardener to do some work in my Mum’s garden I didn’t have time to do now.

    Councillors weren’t out to make a profit – we did it because we enjoyed the role, and would stop when we were either voted out or moved away or lost interest. When we lost interest, and found a new keen candidate to replace us it was easy to step down because there was no financial impact.

    Nowadays we get thousands before tax. That allows me to do extra things such as help pay for this website, but obviously there’s a lot left over. Are councillors going to step down so willingly just because they have lost interest? Or are they going to stay on – perhaps in a lacklustre way – because by serving for another 4 years they can get another £16,000 or so?

  • Chris, I believe they have shot themselves in the foot with this. There are very few people in this district that are going to back them on this one. As you say, this should be about wanting to help people. The whole of this council’s processes and procedures are built around wholly undemocratic views. It is almost going back to Russian times and the Politbureau. Next thing, it will be a knock at the door in the middle of the night. I can understand how the remaining Tory councillors must feel, second rate, while the top eight get all the jobs and make most of the decisions and get the big rises. Oh now what was it that Mr. Warren once wrote, the people do not want to know how decisions are made only the outcome. I for one do want to know how the gang of eight make their decisions.

  • TWR, I totally agree with your comment concerning wages – As a teacher I worked for the County Council, before moving to Central Government as a Benefits Processor and now with a District Council as a Counter Fraud Officer. So have a wealth of experience working within all 3 tiers of government, and agree with you, you’d be lucky to get a 3% increase, in any one of them. It seems to me that those that voted for this extortionate rise are modern day highwaymen and women, robbing for us, the taxpayer! What is absolutely astounding is that the so called Chancellor of the Exchecker (I have numerous other names for him) only a few weeks ago, urged employers not to give payrises above the rate of inflation!

    As a tax payer, I expect, no demand, that the council explain to me, a person they were elected to serve, how they are going to fund this.

  • One familiar Conservative face from the Council Chamber has told me today that the increases are ‘disgraceful.’

    I wish I could say who it was, but I don’t reveal sources!

  • How can cabinet members award themselves such inflation busting pay rises. If there is not a Government watchdog overseeing such actions of individual District Councils it is time there was one.
    Are senior councillors accountable to anyone bar themselves?

  • The way the system works is that:

    -the Conservative Group have introduced a cabinet system

    – an independent panel of three non-councillors ( recruited through adverts in the echo etc) make recommendations on what to pay now we have a cabinet system

    – the council then decides to set allowances according to what the panel recommends, or higher or lower.

  • Thank you for your candid reply Chris!

    Is this “executive” Council structure unique to Rochford – or is it based on a national model? Why don’t the Consevatives allow ordinary Councillors to speak? This is outrageous!

    I am struggling to see how this is an openly democratic system? The old committee system may have been cumbersome but at least everybody had an input! I’m sorry but being naturally suspicious I think the executive cabinet system introduced by the Tories is a breeding ground for corruption… These people are elected to serve the people of Rochford NOT to feather their own nests.

    Mike & Corey, I agree – I also demand that Councillors Cutmore and Thomass et al explain how this obscene rise in allowances is going to be paid for AND of equal importance what extra work they are going to do to justify the raise. As a public servant my pay is performance related… I assume that their’s isn’t!

    Chris, as Greenbelt said is there an ombudsmen of some description that the tax payers in Rochford can complain to?

    Has this issue been raised in the local or national press yet?…

  • No, this system is pretty widespread – councils have been pressurised by the government to adopt it. In my opinion it’s one of the worst domestic policies that the Labour government has had.

    I’m guessing – but I imagine it started off in some city. It’s quite a pleasure to be a councillor in leafy Rayleigh. We don’t have social problems as bad as city places, and its small scale stuff – an average of maybe 900 houses per councillor. In cities its harder work – more problems, and much larger areas for each councillor to cover.

    As council budgets have become tighter , social problems have become worse, and the percentage of unselfish idealists in the Labour party has gone down (we still have some around here though 🙂 ) it became harder to find council candidates. So if they adopted a cabinet system, you could manage with fewer good councillors if you gave them more more money and more power.

    But it’s not necessary here.

    The issue of these allowance increases will be in the local newspapers soon.

  • Thanks Chris but who does the recruitment? Are the Conservatives choosing their own ‘Independent Panel’ to suit their needs and what qualifications, if any, do these three people have to advise on pay structures?
    The more I hear about this, the more suspicious it seems.

  • Recruitment is handled by officers. The Conservatives are NOT able to choose their own panel, I’ve met some of the people on it, they take the role seriously and do it in an honest way. (I just don’t agree with their recommendations this time). Don’t knock the panel.

    However by opting for the cabinet route, the Conservatives did set the context in which the panel looked at things.

  • It is my understanding that Basildon Tories invited opposition into their cabinet to make for a better democratic process, something which I hardly expect to see in Rochford.

  • Thanks Chris,
    I was not knocking the panel, I just did not understand the procedure. it is something that I am sure few people know about and it is only in discussions like this that such things come to our attention.

  • I think Mr. cutmore and his team have gone one step too far (memories of Maggie Thatcher in her last few days as PM come to mind). The vast majority of the residents of Rochford will be outraged by this. I believed they had learnt a lesson after the debacle that was the housing development climb down of last year and the worried look on their faces at the election count in May but obviously Mr Cutmore and Co have a bit of the Maggie in them!

    Does it not occur to them that decisions, good decisions, are made after debate? Here we have one councillor making important decisions. This leaves them open to charges of corruption and fraud and I am not saying this is the case but they do leave themselves open to the charge! Are all these eight councillors experts in their area of responsibility. ONE BAD DECISION could cost the good people of Rochford a fortune. I for one would try and sue the council if that ever happened. Anyway I thought the Conservatives prided themselves on being a democratic party, WHAT A LAUGH.

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