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Posted by: John Brace | 19th August 2014

The incredible £754,783.18 that Wirral Council councillors cost (plus amounts for the Mayor & Deputy Mayor)

The incredible £754,783.18 that Wirral Council councillors cost (plus amounts for the Mayor & Deputy Mayor)

                      

To very little fanfare (compared to the local newspaper coverage that used to go with the annual publication of MP’s expenses), Wirral Council has published on its website what it paid each of its councillors for 2013-14 with a breakdown by basic allowance, responsibility allowance, telephone rental (although this is a £NIL amount for everyone on that list), expenses, subsistence, travel expenses and car mileage. Despite replying to a FOI request and stating this was part of Wirral Council’s “openness and transparency” it is in fact a legal requirement that they publish this information annually (if you’d like to leave a comment referring to the specific Act of Parliament or regulations that require them to do this feel free).

This list includes three people who aren’t councillors but are “independent persons” and are appointed by Wirral Council councillors. These three have a role set down in law in dealing with complaints about councillors. They are also co-opted on Wirral Council’s Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee (whose next scheduled meeting has been cancelled).

Unlike the councillors none of these three get a basic amount, but receive £25 for each meeting they attend of the Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee. In addition to this they are able to claim car mileage for meetings associated with their role. The annual amounts for these three are the smallest on the list being £90.80 (Dr. Burgess-Joyce), £122.40 (Brian Cummings) and £208.10 (RS Jones).

For the politicians, the lowest annual amount paid was to Cllr Matthew Patrick of £3,794.14. This is because he was only elected part way through that year in October 2013 in the Upton by-election. The by-election in Upton happened because of the death of Cllr Sylvia Hodrien, who also appears in the list receiving a part year amount of £4,373.84. Former Councillor Darren Dodd is the only other name to receive a part year amount of £6,019.11 as he resigned part way through the year and moved to Leeds.

The rest received the basic allowance of £8,712.48. In addition to this amount roughly half receive an extra responsibility allowance which for this financial year applied to thirty-three out of the sixty-seven councillors. An extra responsibility allowance is paid to the ten members of the Cabinet (generally an extra £9,171 although the Leader receives £22,927), chair of a committee, leader or deputy leader of a political group etc. The largest responsibility allowance paid was to Cllr Phil Davies of £22,926.96 (this is in addition to the basic allowance of £8,712.48). The smallest amount (that wasn’t £NIL) paid as a responsibility allowance was to Cllr Lesley Rennie of £203.38.

In total (the councillors and independent persons) claimed a total of £5,171.75 in car mileage payments, £490.99 in subsistence payments (this a meals allowance when they’re away from home for over four hours) and £1,684.64 in “expenses”.

The total cost (from this list) to the taxpayer for 2013-14 for the councillors and three independent persons was £754,783.18.

For some obscure reason I’m not really sure of, in earlier years the amount that the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are paid is published separately. This doesn’t seem to have been done yet this year (at the time of writing), but in 2012-13 came to a total of an extra £12,228.80. I would guess that the amount for the mayoralty in 2013-14 would be a similar amount to this.

A number of councillors also represent Wirral Council on outside bodies. There are two councillors who represent Wirral Council on the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority are paid an extra £1,834 each. These amounts are paid directly by Wirral Council to these councillors.

There are other outside bodies such as Merseytravel (four councillors from Wirral Council) and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (four councillors from Wirral Council). These two pay these councillors directly extra amounts for these extra responsibilities. A list similar to the one Wirral Council produces is published on their organisation’s website annually. These amounts are not included in this list from Wirral Council as such payments are made directly to councillors by those bodies rather than through Wirral Council.

A resolution to Council in previous years required Wirral Council to publish these extra amounts received too from bodies funded through the council tax such as Merseytravel, the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority and until it was abolished and replaced with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside & Police and Crime Panel, the Merseyside Police Authority.

As with the complicated scheme in place at Wirral Council, these amounts can vary quite considerably from a basic allowance that all receive to large amounts for the Chair.

Taking one public body, the figures for Merseytravel (which is now part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) haven’t been published on Wirral Council’s website for 2013-14, but the 2012-13 figures show that Wirral Council councillors received a basic allowance each of £5,202.13 (with part year payments to Cllr Blakeley and Cllr Foulkes), an extra special responsibility allowance for three councillors ranging from £1,095.38 to £4,063.29 as well as travel & subsistence payments ranging from nothing claimed to £997.99.

So, although the “cost of democracy” at Wirral Council is at least £754,783.18, in addition to this amount is the cost of the Mayor & Deputy Mayor and the currently difficult to find amounts councillors receive for representing Wirral Council on outside bodies (which Wirral Council should following a resolution agreed by Wirral Council publish on its website but in recent years hasn’t).

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Responses

  1. Hi john, can I make a suggestion why not send your figures to the editor of the Wirral Globe asking him to publish the figures in great detail so that Wirral residents are made aware of what councillors earn. I tried some time ago with an FOI plus an internal review & a request to the to the DCLG quoting the statute re publication of these figures but was fobbed off by the council stating the figures were on their website for all to see. They are only available to people who are computer savvy & not the general public at large so why not publish and be dammed.

    • Yes I linked to your FOI request and I thought you’d be interested in this.

      I also considered putting the whole thing in a large table on this blog rather than linking to the file on Wirral Council’s website. Doing large tables in HTML can be tricky though to get right, even if you just copy and paste it from the pdf file.

      I’m going to bring up the issue of the missing amounts for Mayor/Deputy Mayor in a face to face meeting later today with a senior Wirral Council officer.

      I think the rest of the press (whether it be Wirral Globe, Wirral News or Liverpool Echo or broadcast such as local radio) already read this blog as they’ve used it in the past as a source for stories in the past. I remember in your FOI request the response from Wirral Council was, well anyone can go in a library and look at it on our website.

      The truth is though, the same arguments about being computer savvy apply also to this blog. Since June 2011 (and the issues with the Lib Dems) I don’t write for any print publications (although maybe I should write a piece and submit it to a newspaper or other print publication and see what happens though).

      I did notice that the annual amount that Wirral Council pays to its councillors (without the Mayor/Deputy Mayor and outside bodies amounts) is comparable to the annual amount that Lyndale School receives.

  2. How much would it cost us if 1).We had a smaller amount of councillors or,
    2) We had true democracy and no Spin!

    • In answer to 1) assuming you paid them the same and there was a proportionate reduction in special responsibility allowances then here are the approximate figures (I’ve kept the independent person total expenses the same as they’re trivial compared to the overall amounts).:

      Current situation: 66 councillors (3/ward) + 3 independent persons £754,783.13

      44 councillors (2/ward) + 3 independent persons £503,329.19 (saving£251,453)

      22 councillors (1/ward) + 3 independent persons £251875.24 (saving £502,907)

      However with the last option, the role of councillor would become full-time (like the role an MP has) so you’d probably have to pay them more than they get now as it’s classed as part-time. If councillors take on extra responsibilities such as a member of the Cabinet, then they already get closer to the average full-time salary.

      One thing to point out is that each of the three political leaders (Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem) have a secretary. Each group of over 10% of councillors used to also have a full-time research assistant (until the roles were abolished in previous year’s budget cuts). A lot of councillors got the research assistant doing back office work to do with casework that strictly speaking the councillors should be doing. From what I recall each political group also has an office manager.

      If you made it one councillor per a ward, they’d probably want (like MPs do) to employ staff to help them so any saving would be offset by employing extra people. The role at the moment (for a backbench councillor) is seen as part-time and many have full-time jobs they do at the same time.

  3. […] 2) The incredible £754,783.18 that Wirral Council councillors cost (plus amounts for the Mayor & D… […]

  4. […] coming up to discuss the possible closure of Lyndale School and Wirral Council spent at least £754,783.18 on its own councillors this is money spent on hospitality for many individuals and organisations that could have easily […]


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