Thursday, 2 April 2009

Budget Debate Continues: Councillor Allowances Frozen

As national politicians continue to make unjustified expense claims the local focus has shifted onto whether our Reading councillors offer value for money during these straitened economic times.

Although Labour's original proposal was for a 1% rise in the basic allowance package (as part of a total increase of 2%), pressure exerted by the budget review to find £400,000 of savings has forced Labour to reverse their policy in order to gain the votes to pass the motion necessary for them to maintain their leadership of RBC.

Councillor allowances will now return to 2007/8 levels.

The basic allowance for a councillor (reimbursing time spent fulfilling official duties) will now reduce from £8,447 to £8,220.

Compensation for additional responsibilities will also fall. Leader of the Council (currently Labour's Jo Lovelock) will recieve an extra £7,782 (down from £7,996). Lead councillors on the cabinet and the main opposition group (currently Conservative Andrew Cumpsty) will receive £4,240 (previously £4,357), while junior opposition group leader (currently LibDem Gareth Epps) and committee chairpersons will receive £2,386 (previously £2,452).

Reading Chronicle helpfully does the sums:

Council leader Jo Lovelock - £16,002; Deputy leader Tony Page - £14,578; Cabinet members and Tory leader Andrew Cumpsty - £12,460; Scrutiny/committee chairs and Lib Dem leader Gareth Epps - £10,606; Other councillors - £8,220.

Other allowances for legitimate expenses are also maintained at previous levels.

Party politics played a large role in the debate as Reading Conservatives explained that they wanted to 'send the right message' to voters, but were attacked for failing to make any formal proposals during the budget negotiations.

LibDems were praised for their honesty as they decried Conservative behaviour as "gesture politics" while nevertheless supporting the freeze which will only result in savings of £12,000.

Cllr Warren Swaine (LibDem, Katesgrove) provides an insightful commentary on the discussions.

He says "some councillors really do earn their allowances... others are lazy and feckless" and tentatively calculates a Performance Related Pay League table for all 46 RBC councillors (placing himself 13th).

Oranjepan says:
Some councillors spend hundreds of hours every year attending meetings, actively scrutinising council processes and helping residents with casework, often taking unpaid leave from work to do so.

We need an accurate way of calculating which councillors offer better value for money.


Update: Cllr Willis lauds the proposal as it is now policy.


  1. Some councillors spend hundreds of hours every year attending meetings, actively scrutinising council processes and helping residents with casework, often taking unpaid leave from work to do so. - well duh, that's what they volunteer for. No one makes them do it at the point of a gun.

  2. Hi anon,
    Having spare time and resources to enable you to volunteer is not qualification for political office in itself, nor is it any guarantee that any individual will make a good decision.

    How do you suggest we encourage the highest quality talent from all sections of society to come forward unless a basic level of financial assistance is provided?

    Put it this way - how much do the directors of a £100m business earn?

  3. But they are not the diretors are they? They employ directors. God forbid you allow these idiots to actually run anything.

  4. Exactly.

    Now, who are the shareholders/stakeholders?

  5. Voters are the stakeholders. We employ all the bods at the Civic. Does anon 0012 mean the idiots are the electorate?

  6. er, no voters do not employ bods at the Civic - the Council does. By 'Council', that is the elected representatives who make up 'the Council'. So the electors are not the idiots; well not often anyway!

  7. er, yes we do.

    The council is a public body, we are taxpayers and council workers are all paid for out of our taxes. It's not like tax is voluntary.

    If we are unhappy at the work of the council we only have ourselves to blame - it is idiocy to think we can abdicate our responsibilities to someone else.

  8. Nobody is a Council Tax payer, we are "customers" apparently.

  9. err, NO YOU DON'T! You may contribute to the running of the Council through Council Tax, but you are not the employer. If you don't beleive me, read a contract of employment for a Council employee. Paying Council tax is not the same as employing someone.

  10. Legal technicalities - phhht! It doesn't make it true just because it is written on a piece of paper.

    We are in charge and those in control will be held accountable to us when the time comes.

  11. I see the great leader Andrew Cumpsty tried to take a leading role here rich indeed. It is well known that as a result of his employment with a lobbying Consultancy, he spends most of his days in RBC with his employers blessing.

    Quiet frankly, since becoming leader of the local Tories, he has made the Conservative council group look like a chocolate fire guard when it comes to opposing Labour.

    When are the Tories going to ditch this failed politician and elect a leader who will focus on winning the next local elections and getting rid of Labour once and for all.

  12. Thanks for all the comments. Please can I point Readers in the direction of my informal house rules.

    Anonymous comments can detract from the dialogue, so Reading List encourages you to choose pseudonymity.


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