Cllr Tim Pollard, Leader of Croydon’s Conservative Councillors, updates on tonight’s shocking pay increase that Labour have awarded themselves
On 9 July Croydon Council voted to increase allowances paid to councillors by between 2% and almost 40%. Conservative councillors took the view that for any councillor to receive more than the staff have recently been awarded - 2% - is just wrong in the current financial climate.
We had hoped that this important matter would receive proper attention in the council meeting, through enabling a proper debate where both sides could clearly set out their position. Sadly the administration chose instead to allow the cabinet member for finance to make a statement and he then graciously took a few questions from concerned members. As it is difficult to fully articulate the Conservative Group’s position on this through asking questions, here is what I would have said were the allowances rise open for debate:
I first heard outline ideas about a proposal to increase councillor allowances about ten days ago, so I am surprised that it has taken the administration until this morning to make a paper outlining exactly what the proposal is, available on the web site. I would stress that this proposal was not developed on a cross party basis and it is entirely the work of the Labour administration. If you want evidence to back up that assertion, you need look no further than to check where the money is going, where you find that Labour has granted 88% of all the extra money to its own people! This administration has spent the last four years - and presumably will the next four as well – telling everyone who will listen how little money they have and how it’s all the fault of the government. So it is surprising to find that in spite of this they feel able to grant the average Labour member an additional 5.9% in allowances.
But what is true is that allowances haven͛t actually risen since 2005, the last time that a Labour council did so. And it is interesting to note that here in Croydon, Labour has only ever put allowances up, whereas in 2010 the Conservatives put the bill down. Since 2010 allowances have been frozen, and there clearly comes a point where they may have to start to rise again. I do accept the point made in the report that councillors are now expected to provide their own computers and I was also interested to read in the report that we will also have to pay for our own data protection registration, which you might reasonably think was an expense of the job.
So I don’t object to a modest rise in allowances to recover some of those additional costs, but I do think that the very large increases given to some councillors are not acceptable. The staff have had to make do with 2% this year, so in my view that should be good enough for councillors too. Had there been any meaningful cross party work on this before the Labour group decided its rates, I would have advocated a straight 2% increase in allowances, which would not have sent the message to staff that ‘some animals are more equal than others’, to quote from Animal Farm. It would cost well under half what the proposal we have in front of us will, would be fair to the public and fair to both sides of the chamber.
I don’t object to linking allowance rises going forward to another body – I have always felt it looks really bad for councillors to decide their own allowances, and following the London club doesn͛t really inspire much more confidence, given that it’s still councillors advising other councillors. So I can support the idea that if staff don’t get a rise, nor can councillors.
At a time when there is still a major squeeze on spending within councils this proposal is too much, too soon. So I must therefore vote against it and ask the administration to come back with a proposal which is fair to our valued staff and to tax payers.
Conservative councillors therefore chose to vote against the proposals and took the position that no councillor should take a raise of more than 2%.
I am astounded that the Labour-controlled council think that it is ok to give some leading councillors a rise that is up to twenty times what the council staff recently received. And many residents will be thinking that their pay rises over the last few years have been nowhere close to these jaw-dropping levels.