Tory council votes to increase payments to its leadership

Mike Fisher, the florid-faced leader of the Conservatives who have been running Croydon Council since 2006, is keen to see next Thursday’s election contested on his record in office. Unsurprisingly, the £1 billion debt that Croydon Council has built up on his watch is not something Fisher ever mentions.

Mike Fisher: Has presided over record levels of council debt and record amounts of councillor allowances

Croydon’s Tory leader Mike Fisher: Has presided over record levels of council debt and record amounts of councillor allowances

Nor is the £140 million of our money that they have spent to build the luxury council head offices, also known as “Fisher’s Folly”.

Nor the record amounts which Fisher and his henchmen Dudley Mead and Steve O’Connell decided they should pay themselves in “allowances”.

When they were re-elected on to the Town Hall gravy train in May 2010 virtually the first thing they did was to increase councillors’ allowances. Mainly their own allowances.

Over the last four years of a Tory-run council, Croydon Council Tax-payers footed a total bill for councillors’ allowances of around

£5.8 million

The figure is an approximation, since the finalised amounts for 2013-2014 have not yet been made publicly available by… Croydon Council. These millions of pounds are distributed among all our 70 councillors – Labour as well as the Tories – although those on the Conservative side of the council chamber receive considerably more.

It is one of the highest bills for councillors’ allowances  in any local authority.

The individual payments for what is supposed to be a part-time role make for interesting reading:

  • Mike Fisher pockets £53,223 per year. Plus expenses. Plus free parking. Plus various other tidy little perks of the “job”.
  • Fisher’s deputy leader, Tim Pollard, gets £45,884. Pollard’s partner, Councillor Helen Pollard (de-selected by Tory members in Heathfield as not being good enough for them, and foisted on to Fairfield ward), tops that up with £21,510.
  • Fisher’s other deputy (yes, he needs two), Dudley Mead, trousers a tidy £46,485. Like Pollard, Mead offers a Town Hall “special offer”, a sort of “Buy Two, Get One Household” deal: Margaret Mead gets allowances of £43,339. Not a bad income for a couple of pensioners.
  • Steve O’Connell, the London Assembly Member for Sutton and Croydon, receives £43,339 for his spare time activity as a councillor for Kenley.

And so it goes on…

Could it happen again if the Tories win the Town Hall elections next week?

News from across the county border, in Surrey, suggest that it might.

Vote to pay these three Tory councillors hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, and they'll bribe you with the 25 quid they took off you last year: Mike Fisher (centre), Steve O'Connell and Dudley Mead (left)

Vote to pay these three hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, and they’ll bribe you with the 25 quid they took off you last year: Mike Fisher (centre), Steve O’Connell and Dudley Mead (left)

It’s been trebles all-round at Surrey County Council lately, where they have to find savings of £72million from their services budget. But those tough decisions did not come before councillors there awarded themselves massive pay rises.

An independent remuneration committee recommended a generous 33 per cent increase in allowances for the council leader, David Hodge, and a 56 per cent hike for his deputy, Peter Martin. But Hodge and Martin ignored the committee’s advice and awarded themselves an inflation-busting 66 per cent increase in their allowances. Hodge and Martin now pocket nearly £100,000 a year between the two of them.

The Surrey councillors reckoned that 47 of the county’s 81 elected representatives were worthy of extra dosh in “special responsibility allowances”. According to this week’s Private Eye magazine, the remuneration panel wrote to the councillors in its recommendations to suggest that “the council should consider whether paying [SRA] to a majority of its members can be justified to the residents of Surrey”.

The council paid the increased SRA allowance, and opted to award it to 54 of the 81 councillors.

Total cost of the increases in councillor allowances is £216,600 – or more than the council has “saved” by cutting grants to some community projects.

Today, the remuneration committee in Surrey has resigned in disgust.

And in the case of any doubt, Surrey County Council is under the control of the Conservatives.

Inside Croydon’s recent coverage of the local elections:

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4 Responses to Tory council votes to increase payments to its leadership

  1. Obviously the UKIP Group on Surrey County Council all voted against the increase. If there was a similar situation in Croydon then UKIP councillors would vote against any above inflation increase. Do not forget that backbench Croydon councillors receive the highest allowance in London and we really must lose that ‘title’ as soon as possible.

  2. There are plenty of hard-working people in Croydon, some with the responsibility of running their own business, who don’t receive £50,000 a year, or anything like it.

    The levels of remuneration you are quoting suggest senior elected members of the council are in full-time employment – that’s 35-40 hours a week.

    Unless things have changed out of all proportion since I worked in local government – and I don’t believe they have – these members turn up for evening meetings once or twice a week.

    They’re a windy lot, so the meetings can go on a bit, but rarely more than three or four hours. Anyone who has ever sat in the public gallery will know from the infantile levels of exchange that pass for debate that none of these people does any preparation before they speak. Some can’t even be bothered to read through the agenda.

    The usual form is political knock-about followed by the automatic acceptance – or rejection – of officers’ recommendations, depending on which side you’re on. The majority party always wins, of course; that’s how it works.

    Any research is done by senior officers and their staff. Elected members are not expected to have specialist knowledge of the work of the committees on which they sit: indeed, local government is deliberately organised in that way; senior officers prefer it because knowledgeable members are likely to ask time-consuming questions.
    Yes, the council has a substantial turnover, but that is overseen by allegedly apolitical employees from the chief executive downwards who are generally well paid for their services.

    I daresay the council leader and the chief executive still meet regularly to ensure that the chief executive’s plan of action is politically acceptable to the majority party, but politicians are not expected to do anything personally, beyond cutting the odd ribbon or – heaven forefend – making the odd speech..

  3. A very misleading headline since it is Surrey NOT Croydon to which it refers…..

    • The headline does not refer to Croydon at all.

      The headline could only be misleading if you are too lazy to read the article, which clearly states:
      “News from across the county border, in Surrey, suggest that it might.”

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