WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, reveals a leaked report which seeks to justify increasing pay to ‘Tony’s cronies’ at the Town Hall, in one case by more than £20,000 a year
While Croydon Council and the council leader, Tony Newman, continue to fail to fulfil their legal responsibilities in publishing details of the proposed wage hike for councillors, Inside Croydon is delighted to help them inform the public by revealing the contents of a confidential report drafted by Newman and his “Leadership and Finance Team”.
The memo was distributed within Newman’s Labour group of councillors earlier this week, and it reveals that while Tory austerity cuts are still being applied to council services and staff, Newman wants to spend an extra £250,000 on councillor “allowances” between now and 2022.
Overall, it amounts to a 5 per cent increase in spending on councillor allowances. But in one case, a council position is about to have its pay hiked by a whacking 88 per cent.
Newman describes this as a “modest proposal”.
And there could be more councillor pay rises to come, too. Buried at the end of his report, Newman writes that, “For the next three years any increases in allowances will be directly linked to the public pay sector agreement.”
Between 2014 and 2018, the council spent £1,456,862 per year on “allowances” paid to its 70 elected councillors.
When passed on Monday night (there is no “if” about it happening), it will be the first increase in “allowances” – councillors’ pay – since 2010.
But while Newman is proposing only a 2 per cent increase to the basic allowances for backbenchers and Tory councillors, he has lined up more substantial increases for “Tony’s cronies”, his friends and favourites within the now expanded council cabinet.
Effectively, Newman is using an extra £75,000 per year of Council Tax-payers’ money to buy the loyalty of a handful of senior councillors.
In the case of Louisa Woodley, dropped from her previous cabinet role, she has been made chair of council’s health and well-being board. Newman has increased the “special responsibility allowance” (referred to in councilspeak as an SRA) for that post by £21,000, from the previous £23,746 to a stonking £44,847.
Not bad for the onerous duties of chairing four meetings per year (provided, of course, none of those meetings get cancelled…).
Sean Fitzsimons, as the chair of scrutiny, is also in line for a significant pay hike, to bring him closer to cabinet members’ pay.
According to a senior source in the local Labour Party: “Newman’s increasing the number of people who benefit from additional allowances (effectively 12 people paid as though they were in cabinet roles) and increasing shadow cabinet pay to bind the opposition, too.
“He’s very comfortable dishing out public funds for his own personal benefit, buying off others to maintain his own income.
“I doubt the public will see an increase in work and effort on their behalf from their councillors – residents in Sunny Bank in South Norwood might be the latest residents to have something to say about that notion.
“And I wonder how that £75,000 extra annual spend tallies against funding for the local Citizens Advice Bureau, or other agencies and charities, who actually evaluate and can evidence the results their effort delivers for people?”
For Inside Croydon’s loyal reader, unfamiliar with Newman’s usual writing “style”, the report, under the heading “Council – Alllowances”, offers a useful insight into the calibre of the man who will be banking more than £55,000 per year in his role as our borough’s political leader.
In a memo completely devoid of self-awareness, Newman – by some measure a wealthy white man who dominates the local democratic structures – seeks to justify the increases as a means of ensuring “that we never again go back to the days of, overwhelmingly wealthy white men dominating our local democratic structures”.
The report is reproduced here, as drafted by Newman and his “team”, without amendments to correct grammar, punctuation or spelling.
Council – Allowances
Croydon is London’s largest borough where councillors can represent more than twice as many residents per councillor than some other boroughs, most members elected to leadership and cabinet are full time in those roles, and many other Councillors devote several days per week and most evenings to the role of representing their local communities.
It is vital to our local democracy that the people of all Croydon’s many diverse communities, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, sexuality, household income, child care or caring responsibilities are able to fulfil the role of local councillor, and that we never again go back to the days of, overwhelmingly wealthy white men dominating our local democratic structures.
There has been no increase in Croydon members allowances for over 10 years, apart from when the previous Conservative leader awarded himself a “secret” 11k pay award.
This money was not taken by Cllr Tony Newman as leader in 2014, when all allowances were formally frozen until 2018.
Croydon’s modest proposals take as a starting point the 2018 London Councils Independent review panel report, which breaks down the various Councillor roles into different pay bands.
The proposed Croydon increase is 2% on the basic allowance for all Councillors. 4.3% for Cabinet members and 2% for Shadow Cabinet members.
The new SRA for the Council leader will still see Croydon paying 20% less than the recommended rate (London Councils report recommends it should be equal to an MP) and less than many leaders in London. Also in line with the report the position of Health and Wellbeing Board Chair is increased to match that of a Cabinet member, and the position of Scrutiny is increased to the level it was prior to the Conservatives reducing the Councils Scrutiny function in 2011.
(For info – all staff are getting a minimum 2% increase this year and have received a minimum of 7% since 2013 – increases as a Labour Group we have been proud to champion)
The increase for Cabinet members bring still leaves their SRA’s 10% below the bottom end of the suggested rate.
These increases will add 24k to the councils budget this year and 75k next year, in the context of a council that spends one billion pounds per year.
For the next three years any increases in allowances will be directly linked to the public pay sector agreement.
Leadership & Finance Team
- Click here to see the councillor allowances as agreed in 2014
- Click for London Councils’ 2018 remuneration report
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