Friday, 11 March 2011

Overpriced Councillors

The photograph is of Highland Council councillors.  The Scottish government has recommended that they, along with other Scottish councillors, 'deserve a pay rise to reflect their workloads'.  An elected councillor's basic salary is currently about £16,000 and the proposal is to increase it to £19,000.

Not only does the Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee's report suggest this absurd increase but it also proposes that the leaders of smaller councils salaries are put on a 'more even keel' with their counterparts in large authorities.

The recommendation proposes that council leaders in Glasgow and Edinburgh would receive £83,000 - up from around £52,000, with the heads of smaller authorities earning at least £44,000.

This fills me with disgust. Over the years I've known quite a few councillors and only one worked full-time while others continued to work full-time in well paid jobs yet protested at the number of hours they 'worked' because of their council duties. Once  salaries were introduced a few gave up their full-time employment, although those who worked in the public sector continued because if their pension benefits.

An Army major receives a salary of £47,760 plus increments for service. There is no overtime in the military and no additional salary for chairing any committee.  Some chair international meetings concerning our security yet they receive no extra.  If they attend/chair meeting abroad they must travel second class.  As from 1April any daily subsidence allowances are to be stopped.

No buffet lunches or teas for our military yet our councillors find it necessary.

According to the Herald 'the current pay freeze for councillors means any change would be unlikely for at least a year'.  It should never happen. Councillors do not deserve more than they presently receive - and there are a few who deserve far less - yet the the committee's chairman said:

“We have had to look at councillors’ remuneration against an economic backcloth that has changed beyond recognition. We are suggesting the Government should consider our recommendations on pay alongside those of the Commission Report on Public Service Delivery to see if some of these recommendations could be self-financing.
“There are areas where we believe the Government should act sooner, namely remuneration to councillors serving on Aleos, councillors serving on joint boards and community justice authorities and councillors who are suspended from their duties.”

We must remember the pensions too.  Is this what would happen in an independent Scotland?  I've yet to see one of my local councillors effecting local issues and sometimes they do so to the contrary. The only matter in which my own councillor became involved was the lack of snow clearance in the car park which accesses the local Post Office - way back in December.  It had been like an ice rink for weeks and hundreds complained.  She told me there was nothing she could do as she was unable to move her own car because of the freezing weather yet she would try to contact someone by email.  Three days later a plough and gritter cleared the car park although I was told it was not because of councillors' pressure but the behest of the company who owns the shop in which the Post Office is housed.

Being a councillor used to be a service from a few 'worthies' towards whole communities.  None expected a remuneration except possibly the odd sandwich and cup of tea if they were on council business outwith standard working hours and any travel expense repaid.

It was an honour in those days.  Now it is a career with financial reward featuring uppermost.  I'm sure there are Scottish councillors who deserve their current salary but they are few and far between in this part of the country.  None deserve salaries way above those of our military.  I wonder who paid for the photograph of the Highland councillors.  Do you think they passed the hat round?



Joe Public said...

Pay peanuts & you get monkeys.

Those who live in that complex urban county called Suffolk lavish £218,000 pa on their chief executive Andrea Hill.

She's so incompetent / insecure that she's undergone 23 coaching sessions with a “change” guru at a cost of more than £12,000 to the taxpayer.

Can she be worth 1.5 x iDave?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

SR, you post on a subject about which I have been complaining for yonks!

Leave aside whether it be Scotland, England, Wales or N. Ireland - until we have true local government, one with tax-raising powers, total local control over health, education, law & order - without central government control - local councillors should be paid absolutely nothing!

It is possible to continue as a "United Kingdom" with my suggestion - you get the best of both worlds, autonomy for the "nation state" and a United Kindgom.

What say you - that shud stir up a discussion!

subrosa said...

No Joe, the pay peanuts and get monkeys doesn't work in this scenario. Think about it. ;)

subrosa said...

They should get fed if they've missed a mealtime WfW and also compensated for travel costs. That would return the position to a respectful one. So few here know their councillors. Only those who have problems with the likes of housing benefit do.

None has done anything for me in 20+ years and I know all of the local ones bar one. No it shouldn't be a career but a very worthy part of volunteering for the good of those around you.

Disenfranchised of Buckingham said...

I was a district councillor for 8 years in the 1980s, ending up as deputy leader of the council.

I claimed expenses, pence per mile for travelling etc. No allwoances for responsibilty and definitely no salary.

I see no improvement in the quality of councillors since my time in their ranks. However if you pay senior councillors large salaries it is hardly surprising that senior executives get paid more than the PM.

Strathturret said...

Sorry if you want good people and we do you will need to pay them properly. £16k is not nearly enough.

subrosa said...

I see no difference either Buckingham, in fact quite the contrary. In the 80s most of my local councillors were people who were either retired or held down a job and dedicated their spare time to council work. None ever complained.

subrosa said...

Ah, that old chestnut Strathturret. It's nonsense. Councillors don't work a 35 hour week, at least not in this part of the world. They have their travel and meals paid for on top of their salary and they get extra for chairing meetings. It's twice as much as I get as a pension and I do a fair amount of what some may called skilled voluntary work for which I claim nothing.

gildas said...

Excellent posting

Dramfineday said...

There was an inevitability about this SR. As soon as they were paid a salary there would be pressure for increases. In this case a rather greedy sized increase. Still you can understand where that behaviour comes from listening and watching all the great and greedy lining up to boast about the size of the wad they have. Measures drive behaviour after all. In the case of the council I would suggest that a pay freeze is in order. £16k per year will keep them in touch with reality and if they have to struggle, well and good, as so are the rest of us.

PS funny how these in house renumeration committee's always recommend rises, not cuts, no matter what business is involved.

PPS perhaps if the good councillors were to recommend a (say) 30% reduction in members per council they could use some of the saved salaries to boost thier own?

JRB said...

Om-mani-padme-hum; Om-mani-padme-hum
I must think happy calm thoughts; I must think happy calm thoughts

Thank you SR, this post is just what I need to check that my ‘blood pressure’ medication is working. LOL.

I firmly believe that an honest workman is deserving of an honest salary.


For councillors to even contemplate such increases at such a time as this shows a total disregard for public opinion, or the financial position faced by every council in the land, it is a unquestionable obscenity that deserves every criticism.

This, at a financial time when their council workers are facing job losses.
This , at a financial time when their council workers are having to accept salary cuts.
This , at a financial time when their council workers are being asked to do more for less wages.
This , at a financial time when vacancies are not being filled in order to save money.
This , at a financial time when front line services are being scaled back.
This , at a financial time when front line services are being cut.

All that this suggested salary increase for councillors proves is that they are the ‘numpties’ we feared they were; without either common sense or a basic conscience; driven only be greed, and that most unpleasant enduring sense of – ‘I’m all right, Jack’

Billy Carlin said...

The biggest laugh is this committee says that councillors are working harder than ever before - no they are not. In this new system they are all just hiding in the multi-member wards hoping that the sheep will just go out and put a cross against their party name the next time.

Being a councillor is not even a part time job and there are now too many of them with the new system. They should just be getting expenses for what they actually do and nothing more as most of them work full time in their own jobs elsewhere anyway.

subrosa said...

Thank you Gildas. I feel honoured. :)

subrosa said...

Yes Dram, I'm sure we all saw it coming when their 'basic' wage came in at £15,000. Many people don't earn that for a full week's work in some difficult jobs.

Turkeys don't vote for Christmas though Dram but I really feel this is bordering on fraud. They're ineffective in resolving major problems. An example here is a new housing project has had over 400 complaints. At the planning committee the 3 local councillors voted against the project as it is but the other 4 voted for. The local councillors knew that would happen yet for a couple of years we've seen blatant posturing about the issue and the fact they 'sacrificed' evenings to attend meetings. The work undertaken by some was a complete waste of time. Useless.

This (one of several here) was one issue where a committee split into areas. The 4 'no' bodies don't live anywhere near the area concerned.

subrosa said...

Oh John, you know I wouldn't purposely push up your blood pressure. Well maybe just a little.

The position of councillors has changed radically since salaries were introduced. Before that they were respected as people who had the time and inclination to help out their communities. That still lingers here as I hear folk say on the odd occasion 'auch I can't bother the councillor'. Bother?

Councilling is now a career not a vocation and this increase is, as you say, pure greed.

subrosa said...

They pop out of the woodwork here Billy when major local issues reach the paper. If people were asked the name of their councillor I doubt if 20% would give the correct answer. If people were asked here the name of their MSP the result would be around 80% I should think. Then again, we're lucky having one of the best.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Whether in boom or bust, the anathema of politics is the career choice that needs neither competence, commitment nor integrity. Is ever measured or judged by results nor marked for effort and purpose -yet, for all its ambiguity of worth its demand for reward must constantly be upgraded.

This is Utopia for every Shylock free loading carpet bagger who regard party bigotry as democracy, prattling committees as process and the position they claim to be that of a fiefdom which by design and now custom is principally to protect their own welfare.

Sack the lot. Most of them don't know what they're doing anyway. Leave it to the bureaucrats -who already advise them as to what can or cannot be done - and if the bureaucrats don't measure up, then give them the boot.


Hamish said...

Representative democracy is obsolete.
Modern communications mean we, the public, can determine the outline of policy, and the council officials/civil servants can implement it. No need for go-betweens.
This is becoming increasingly evident in local government.

Sorry to be cynical SR, but you are harking back to a non-existent golden age. Yes, there were exceptions, but in the old days many councillors were in it for themselves, or their friends. You needed their support to get a house or a teaching job or a building contract.
In my idealistic youth, I was taken aback by the remarks of a Conservative councillor in Edinburgh (I think they were called Moderates or Progressives at the time).
Of course I'm in it to pursue my business interests, he said. And the Labour councillor in your ward has his decorating business to look after. The Edinburgh council was created to look after the interests of local businessmen.

As I recollect, at one time James Miller (of Miller Group) was Lord Provost and his brother Lawrence was head of planning. Edinburgh still bears the scars of that era.

Little anecdote, Sir James had that irritating accent of a Scotsman on the make. Late on, he took elocution lessons to make himself acceptable to the English chattering class, and was rewarded by being appointed Lord Mayor of London.

subrosa said...

That's the sad fact Crinkly - there's no qualification required. Nothing at all yet politicians get well over the average wage.

Not a good example to our young people is it and it's not surprising there are queues desperate to become the next candidate for any party.

subrosa said...

It is evident in local government Hamish and yes, I kind of agree they are obsolete. Perhaps I've been fortunate having sensible and intelligent councillors in the distant past but I do know there was much corruption and possibly it still goes on to a degree.

Rewards for favours are the name of the game. Nothing we can do to stop this behaviour either. If there was I doubt Mandy would have an ermine-lined cloak hanging in his wardrobe.

Jo G said...

When I was last involved in community politics Councillors got paid around £6000 per annum. I remember when it changed to being an actual job. At that time tho some had jobs and were only able to do work relating to Councillor responsibilities on a part time basis. Many Councillors gave up their original jobs to go full time properly but with a living wage if you like. I don't have a problem with that in principle. But the meals allowance? Why? They'd need to buy a meal anyway if at home so why should we pay for a meal just because they are out? I get hungry at work too but I buy my own meal. Its called lunch time.

I think the valid issue of qualifications needs to be looked at too. In some places there is a pecking order especially in the local Labour branches and its widely known who is "next" to fill a Council seat. Qualifications don't come into and the community itself doesn't have a say when it comes to endorsing the choice of candidate nor do we get the chance to question the candidates to establish just how capable (or not) they actually are. If they are to be paid well from the public purse perhaps its time the public had a role in the actual selection process thus ending the practice of having idiots foisted on us.

Jo G said...

Sorry: I meant to say this before everything else in my previous post. All public sector people are currently working under frozen salary rates with no rises predicted for some time to come. So how can these rises for Councillors and Council Leaders be justified? Weren't we all supposed to be "in this together"?

subrosa said...

I don't see why councillors are worth more than the minimum wage Jo. Their job isn't taxing and they have little responsibility. Of course they will say they're responsible to their electorate but they're not. If that was true then I know of at least 500 people in this small town who would be calling for their resignations.

If they're to be paid then let them show their qualifications. Of course in labour areas they are usually being something in a union. Does that make them worthy?

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