By 10am today, Croydon Labour’s council leader Tony Newman had still failed to release the detail of his proposals to award himself – and his closest political chums – a whacking great pay rise.
Newman’s plan to increase Croydon councillors’ “allowances” are due to be decided at the Town Hall on Monday, at the first full council meeting since the May local elections.
Government statutory instruments on council transparency (what most people would recognise as the law) have failed to be properly respected by the council, as Newman and his chief executive, Jo Negrini, keep the pay proposals away from public scrutiny.
Under The Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012, councils must make available for public inspection all reports that go with already published agenda items five clear days ahead of a council meeting. The increasingly secretive Newman has ignored such rules in a failed attempt to keep his greedy pay hike under wraps for as long as possible.
In the absence of hard information, speculation has been rising on Katharine Street since Inside Croydon broke the story of the secret pay rise, as to what shocks are to come.
There was no mention of any councillor pay rises in Newman’s Labour manifesto ahead of the local elections just two months ago.
But some Town Hall sources are suggesting that, after an eight-year pay freeze for Croydon’s 70 Labour and Tory councillors, Newman wants to bring in increases of as much as 20per cent in the Council Tax-funded allowances, though only for select a handful of his favourite councillors.
By the time of Monday’s council meeting, Newman is hoping that the matter will be a fait accompli as councillors vote themselves a pay rise.
In the meantime, Blairite Newman’s council continues to impose the Tory government’s austerity programme of yet more cuts to council staff and residents’ services.
According to sources within Tim Pollard’s Conservative opposition group, Newman is feeling particularly smug that he has managed to persuade his group of 41 Labour councillors to concentrate the biggest increases in pay on the select few in his hand-picked council cabinet.
Cabinet members, unless they job share, currently receive £43,339 a year, a rate unchanged since 2009, during which time average weekly earnings have risen by 15per cent.
Labour’s freeze on councillors’ pay from 2014 to 2018 looked impressive when compared to the #Wadgate scandal that caught former Tory leader Mike Fisher and a handful of his closest mates with their snouts in or sniffing very close to the trough.
But all Labour’s hard-won political capital is about to be squandered by Newman, as he opts to use tens of thousands of pounds of public money to strengthen his own position within the Town Hall majority group by buying the loyalty of his all-powerful cabinet.
Most of the ruling Labour group, the backbenchers, are rumoured to be getting little more than the crumbs from Newman’s top table of allowance increases. Backbench pay is hard to increase, as Croydon already pays more than the rate recommended most recently by London Councils’ not-so-independent review of councillor pay in the capital.
Croydon back bench councillors’ pay is already £11,239 a year. The independent report recommends £11,045 a year. Croydon’s argument for paying its councillors more is that their ward areas and ward populations tend to be bigger than average. As at the 2014 local elections, Croydon’s 70 councillors had wards over 17 per cent larger than the Greater London average.
But an underhand pay hike pushed through straight after an election in which Newman’s leadership failed to deliver the 45 or more council seats which it could have done will look to many residents like the cynical move it undoubtedly is.
That cynicism will become especially ingrained if increases come at a rate above the 2.4per cent increase in the average weekly wage over the last year.
But who knows what that pay hike for councillors will be? Only Tony Newman and his closest chums seem to know for the moment.
As for the poor, down-trodden Council Tax-payers? It’s a case of mind your own business, what Tony Newman’s councillors pay themselves is nothing to do with you.
- Click here to see the councillor allowances as agreed in 2014
- Click for London Councils’ 2018 remuneration report
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