KEN LEE reports on the latest hike for the councillors’ allowances
Tony Newman, Croydon’s Labour council leader, and Prime Minister Theresa Mayhem appear to agree on at least one point: austerity is over.
At least it is if you’re among Newman’s clique at the Town Hall, where they have started to take steps to award themselves another handy little pay rise.
The matter is on the agenda for next week’s general purposes and audit committee (GPAC, in councilspeak), with an across-the-board 2 per cent increase recommended for all 70 of Croydon’s elected councillors. If the rise goes through – and there’s no reason to expect that it will not – it will be the first time in a decade that Croydon’s council allowances have been increased in successive years.
Newman – the sometime organ player for a little-known prog rock band who currently wallows in £55,546 of Council Tax-funded allowances – promptly oversaw a 2 per cent increase for councillors after last year’s local council elections, and he is implementing this rate of inflation increase this year on the premise that someone else told them to do it.
In the report being put before next Thursday’s committee meeting, it states that the 2 per cent rise “is keeping with the annual local government staff pay settlement for 2019-2020”.
Which sort of implies that councillors are being treated like council staff, even though many – including Newman – are reluctant to detail the hours that they spend at the Town Hall or council offices, while many others – such as Newman’s big buddy, architect Paul Scott – are employed full-time in other jobs.
The opposition Tories at the Town Hall are likely to grumble a bit about increasing councillor allowances at a time when Council Tax is still being increased.
But as far as we can ascertain, none of Tory leader Tim Pollard’s 29 Conservative councillors has returned or refunded a single penny of the extra cash they have been paid since last year’s increase, not even those councillors who rarely bother to attend council or committee meetings.
In the council official’s (poorly drafted) report for next week’s GPAC meeting, they state, “In accordance with the Local Government Act 2000 and Local Authorities (Members’ Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003, Local Authorities are required to undertake a formal independent review of the level of allowances for their Members at least once every four years. In London, provision has been made for this review to be undertaken by an Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP)…
“The IRP recommended that the allowances they had recommended for adoption by London Local Authorities should be updated annually in accordance with the headline figure in the annual local government pay settlement.”
The big winner in last year’s Croydon council allowances reshuffle Louisa Woodley. Woodley is known in Katharine Street for being a close ally of Newman.
Despite being dropped from the inner cabal of the council cabinet last May, Woodley somehow managed to cling on to the council gravy train, finding herself still on a similar level of allowances – £45,168. This “special responsibility allowance” was for the special responsibility of chairing just five meetings of the health and well-being board in the course of the last 14 months. Most of the council’s other committee chairs receive £20,000 a year less than the preferential terms that Woodley found herself on.
Croydon Council Tax-payers already provide £1.5million per year in allowances for the borough’s 70 councillors.
This latest rise will cost them an additional £31,500 in 2019-2020, according to the council official’s own calculations. In true Blairite style, it is those already on the biggest allowances who will be getting the biggest increases: the biggest increase of all – £1,111 – will be going to the capo di tutti capi at the Town Hall, council leader Newman.
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