Which Liverpool City Council councillors recommended themselves a 1% pay rise?

Which Liverpool City Council councillors recommended themselves a 1% pay rise?

Which Liverpool City Council councillors recommended themselves a 1% pay rise?


Constitutional Issues Committee (Liverpool City Council) 9th May 2017 left Chris Walsh right Cllr Alan Dean
Constitutional Issues Committee (Liverpool City Council) 9th May 2017 left Chris Walsh right Cllr Alan Dean


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Constitutional Issues Committee (Liverpool City Council) 9th May 2017 Agenda Item 9 Scheme of Member Allowances 2017/18 This item starts at 17:54 in the video above.

Now the local elections are over (although thanks to the government nationally there’s also a general election), I was present yesterday afternoon for a public meeting of Liverpool City Council’s Constitutional Issues Committee.

During the election campaigns for councillors and Metro Mayor, I’m sure many people told political parties and politicians of the “big issues” that people wanted sorted out.

So councillors have listened, and in one of the first recommendations after the local elections have recommended to award themselves a pay rise.

Interestingly based on comments made by those at the meeting at Liverpool City Council at least one councillor stated she was deterred from claiming expenses because they’re worried the Liverpool Echo would criticise them for doing so.

Wirral Council councillors on the other hand, have their spokesperson Cllr Adrian Jones to state it’s not reasonable for the press and public to know what councillors claiming in expenses and these are kept a secret on the Wirral.

Of course the last Labour government made it a law that all expenses claimed by councillors had to be open to public inspection.

Moving swiftly back to Liverpool City Council councillors though. The report from the Independent Panel was a late report dated the day before the meeting, so Chris Walsh was busy handing out copies to councillors in the minutes before the meeting started.

The report encourages councillors to claim legitimate expenses, although a number of councillors pointed out that Merseytravel already provide them with free travel on public transport. Taxis had been mentioned earlier in the meeting, but in the context of criticism about Wirral registered taxis coming over to Liverpool.

So what are Liverpool’s politicians paid at the moment? Well the Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson is paid a base amount of £79,500, councillors each receive a base amount of £10,077.

Councillors also receive IT equipment (along with access to Council systems), car park passes, “Group Office Member support” (which means staff), printing, stationery, postage costs and surgery costs (up to a maximum of £330 a year).

There is a childcare allowance (only for children up to thirteen) and dependant carer’s allowance. If councillors are representing Liverpool City Council on outside bodies they’re not allowed to “double claim” from that body and Liverpool City Council.

Travel and subsistence claims can also be made, including international travel. There are a range of special responsibility allowances (which are in addition to the base amount) ranging from Deputy Mayor (£28,620) to Whip of Main Opposition Group (if that group has over 20% of the councillors) of £4,209.

Councillors on outside bodies, just to give one example Cllr Dave Hanratty as Chair of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority receives an extra ~£27k.

So back to what councillors said at the public meeting.

Firstly, the Labour Chair Cllr Alan Dean said Liverpool City councillors should be paid more because of what other councillors on Merseyside are paid.

Cllr Richard Kemp (Leader of the Liberal Democrat councillors on Liverpool City Council) said they would not oppose the pay rise.

On the subject of expenses, a councillor then said that she did not want to be mocked on the front page of the Liverpool Echo for claiming expenses.

Councillor Richard Kemp stated that he couldn’t afford the £140-£150 train fare when he went to London so claimed it on expenses, but that Liverpool City Council paid at a discounted rate due to his senior citizens card.

The Chair Cllr Alan Dean stated that politicians shouldn’t be carrying out their functions at a financial loss or gain. He referred to his public transport pass that Merseytravel issue him with. Cllr Richard Kemp confirmed he has a Merseytravel pass too.

The recommendation for a pay rise will be formally agreed at a future public meeting of all 90 Liverpool City Council councillors and the elected Mayor at Liverpool Town Hall.

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What’s a Wirral Council councillor worth?

What’s a Wirral Council councillor worth?

What’s a Wirral Council councillor worth?


Oliver asks for more porridge

Recently there has been a lot of anger expressed by the public over a proposed 11% pay rise for MPs from 2015. Wirral Council’s councillors (unlike MPs who after the expenses scandal agreed that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority would set their pay) still decide on what they’re paid. In fact the legislation states that when voting on this matter they don’t even have to declare an interest!

In a parallel with MPs, in order to keep the base amount that councillors get low over the years and presumably avoid a similar kind of bad publicity that the proposed pay rise for MPs is receiving, the base amount for being a Wirral Council councillor is currently set at £8,712 (equivalent to ~168/week). There are (in many cases similar to the MP’s expenses system) a bewildering amount of ways that Wirral Council’s councillors can increase this.

Each year what Wirral’s council’s councillors are paid is published on Wirral Council’s website. These figures I link to are from 2012/13. As Wirral Council’s financial year finishes about a month before we usually have elections (apart from next year when local elections will be combined with the European elections) there are some small amounts for people that were councillors for only a few weeks in that year or were elected part way through the financial year. If you discount these part year amounts, the amounts range from the basic £8,712 to £30,437.60 for the Leader of the Council Cllr Phil Davies.

In addition to the amounts in that list councillors receive extra if they represent Wirral Council on certain outside bodies such as Merseytravel or Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. Both of these bodies decide themselves on their own allowances scheme.

So what is proposed at Wirral Council? Well periodically the allowances scheme is reviewed by the “Independent Panel on Members Allowances”. The Independent Panel doesn’t meet in public and there isn’t any public consultation on its findings.

Reading its report its conclusions are based on the input of councillors (a census of councillors on pay, other authority’s independent reports and the direct input of Cllr Phil Davies, Cllr Jeff Green and Cllr Phil Gilchrist) as well as senior officers at Wirral Council.

In distinct echoes of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority proposed 11% pay rise for MPs, Wirral Council’s independent panel recommends “When the financial climate allows, due consideration should be given to reinstating the 5% austerity cut in the basic allowance.”

However the rest of the recommendations remain relatively uncontroversial and are unchanged to what they were previously. The allowances for the Mayor and Deputy Mayor (of £10,700 and £1,500) remain the same. Both the Mayor and Deputy Mayor attend a lot of different events during their year in Wirral. The Mayor also has to chair Wirral Council Council meetings. Keeping order and making sure Council meetings don’t degenerate into people speaking being drowned out by heckling, requires courage, tact and a sense of humour as well as the respect from other councillors.

About a year ago, much of the work of the Employment and Appointments Committee (such as appeals against dismissal, grievance hearings etc) was delegated to the Chief Executive Graham Burgess so the special responsibility allowance of its Chair of £2,751 is proposed to be scrapped.

The Chairs of the new Constituency Committees won’t receive any extra for their role, but this will be reviewed once they are “up and running” (suggested for October 2014). Pensions for Wirral’s councillors have been ruled out until the end of the current Government/Treasury consultation exercise.

The panel estimated that the average councillor spends twenty-three hours a week on the role and that any future increases in allowances should be linked to staff pay.

Finally I’ll make a number of what could be termed party political points (*breaking a general rule of mine on this blog and no I’m not a member of a political party despite rumours to the contrary) about councillors allowances and elections.

The arrangements that the political parties on Wirral have with their councillors (as far as I know and please leave a comment to the contrary if I am wrong) is that their councillors contribute a share of their allowances to their political party. This money is then used at election time (in conjunction with sources of other money) by that political party to help their candidates win votes from the public and get re-elected.

This is why there is only one independent councillor on Wirral Council (who was elected as a Lib Dem). Any independent candidate would have to either be independently wealthy in order to fund their own campaign or have a wealthy patron in order to stand a chance financially against the taxpayer funded political parties.

It leads to a system of safe seats on Wirral where one political party holds all the seats in a ward for a very, very long time. Voters are in such wards can become apathetic of voting as they feel the election is a foregone conclusion and their vote won’t make a difference to the outcome. The only thing that tends to shake things up are boundary changes.

Personally I view this current situation as bad for democracy (although those who it benefits may disagree). As much as some politicians may not like scrutiny, they make better decisions more in tune with public opinion when other political parties (and individuals) are scrutinising them. If a politician feels they may in the future either suffer the embarrassment of losing an election (or not be reselected by their party as their candidate) it can lead to them working harder in the public interest for the full term of their office (and not just at election time).

We have a system on Wirral where politicians’ future career prospects are based on reselection by their party who then goes on to fund their campaign (subsidised by the taxpayer). Comments on the system of democracy we have are welcome.

P.S. I’ll also formally announce something here I decided a while ago. I won’t be standing as a candidate in the Wirral Council elections in 2014.

Writing this blog and publishing the footage of public meetings (only possible because of media and consultancy work I do that is better paid than writing about Wirral Council) is in my view more in the public interest than the commercial work I do.

To be honest with you I’m much better at being a blogger with the freedom to say things as I see them rather than get bogged down in the party politics of Wirral (which is tarnished by a past reputation for doing things for party political reasons rather than acting in the public interest).

On a related matter the proposed legislation which includes a clause about filming Council meetings (the Local Audit and Accountability Bill) reaches its third reading and report stage tomorrow (17th December 2013). These are the last of its stages in the House of Commons.

There are two more stages to go after that before it becomes law. Once it becomes law there will be secondary legislation on the filming issue (the Local Government Association wants to be consulted on it), which will hopefully make the current unsatisfactory situation much clearer.

If the only result of starting this blog (and no it wasn’t just me getting angry about this issue but other people too I’m not going to take the sole credit despite this blog being cited in one of Pickle’s press releases about it) is that a change in the law will mean councils (and other bodies spending public money) in England won’t have any spurious legal grounds be able to justify banning audio or video recording of their meetings, then hopefully the greater openness and transparency that results will be a greater contribution to democracy than I could have ever achieved had I been elected as a Wirral Council councillor. Personally I would’ve preferred to try out the human rights arguments about the filming matter in a court of law, but a change of legislation is a better long-term outcome.

On the subject of courts of law, the libel case involving Jacqui Thompson (the woman who was arrested for filming a Council meeting in Wales) has a hearing in the Court of Appeal today. Update 14:40 Permission to appeal was refused. There have been reports in the press about the legality of Carmarthenshire County Council’s paying for its Chief Executive Mark James’ legal costs in this case.

In more local legal matters the issue of Wirral Council’s request for a possession order for Fernbank Farm will be decided at Birkenhead County Court some time in the New Year.

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