23 July 2010

UPDATE 27 July 2010: the councillors unanimously voted against an increase in their pay.

ORIGINAL POST 23 July 2010
The 27 July 2010 meeting of Cornwall Council is to consider an increase in councillor pay – the official term is allowances. At present the basic pay is £12 128 a year. The Local Government Association has told councils that, based on a rise in ASHE national median pay, there could be a rise of 2.3 percent in the councillor day session rate. Details are set out in the agenda item linked at the bottom of this post.

The council agenda sets out three choices for the council on the 27th:
“(i) apply the LGA day rate increase of 2.3% to the Cornwall Council Members’ Allowances Scheme;
(ii) decline to apply the LGA day rate increase of 2.3% to the Cornwall Council Members’ Allowances Scheme; or
(iii) apply the LGA day rate increase of 2.3% to the Cornwall Council Members’ Allowances Scheme and leave it to individual Members to forego all or part of their allowance.”

We are embarking on cuts in public services in Cornwall. Pay for very many in the public and private sectors has been frozen. Some benefits are falling and some taxes are rising. Jobs are disappearing and unemployment, despite a seasonal uplift in Cornwall, will worsen. Some workers in Cornwall are facing the localisation of their pay. For many people in Cornwall life is becoming more difficult and less fulfilling.

In these circumstances the council should vote for (ii); it should decline the rise. That would mark its solidarity with the people it represent and demonstrate that it understand people’s difficulties. It would mark its leadership. To go for a rise in these straitened times would be indefensible. We’re all in this together, aren’t we?

I wonder whether we can improve the current payment scheme? The independent remuneration panel explains that it is related to rises in the national male white-collar median wage: see page 40, paragraph 33 of the panel’s report. I think that the pay scheme would be improved if it were based on the median pay of all employees not just males; and based on the median pay in Cornwall where the councillors serve. The argument for localised councillor pay is stronger now that the Tory Libdem government is applying localisation to many public sector workers in Cornwall. If councillor basic pay were a to-be-decided percentage of the appropriate median pay of all employees in Cornwall that would relate it directly to the pay of the people the councillors serve. Half the workers earn more and half less than the median pay; and there are various ways of measuring it as the ASHE tables show.

The Cornwall Council agenda item for the allowances is here. It is item 12, page 11 onwards.

This is the report of councillors’ pay considered at the Cornwall Council meeting of 19 January 2010: item 8, pages 25-74. It sets out how one gets from the day session rate to the Cornwall councillor basic pay. At this meeting Alec Robertson, the Tory leader of the council, said, “We all know that people are losing their jobs and we know that with budget cuts, we are trying to protect frontline services. An increase is just unacceptable.” Nothing has changed for the better in the last six months.