What’s a Wirral Council councillor worth?
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, griev