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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