Greenwich Council

Agenda item

Amendment to Members' Allowances Scheme 2018/19

Decision:

Agreed an amendment to the Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) in the Members’ Allowance Scheme 2018/19 as follows

 

(i)An increase to the SRA for the Chief Whip by £5,000 to take into account the level of work that is required for this position.

(ii)Set aside £10,000 to finance two project assistants (Elected Members) to work alongside Cabinet Members to support them, and the wider group, in the development of policy.

 

 

 

Minutes:

Councillor Angela Cornforth having declared an interest left the meeting for the duration of the item.

 

The Mayor moved the recommendations in the report.

 

Councillor Matt Hartley called the proposal a disgrace. He referred to the Council meeting in March, and meetings in previous years, where the members allowances scheme had been agreed and agreed to be frozen. He questioned what had changed since then, and suggested it was the internal politics of the Labour Group. He commented on the cost of the proposals, and noted that a proposal for a full-time political aide had rightly not been brought forward. He suggested the money could instead be used for vital services. Councillor Hartley requested that the report be withdrawn.

 

Councillor Danny Thorpe noted that many councils across London employed political assistants. He stated the opposition was consulted. He said it was not about putting an extra burden on Council taxpayers it was about getting the job done. He said the Chief Whip was of the whole full Council and not just the Labour Group and they dedicated a lot of time, along with opposition counterpart, to getting involved in the business and the running the machine of the Council that many of them did not see and appreciate.

 

Councillor Matt Clare sought confirmation that the proposed political appointments were not being bankrolled by those in this Chamber who had forgone allowances for various reasons.

 

Councillor Spencer Drury felt that the Leader of the Council was breaking with convention and changing the constitution, with members' questions and now allowances, without speaking properly to the leader of the opposition, which suggested behaving in a party political way rather than acting for the common good. He said it was important that the public did not draw the conclusion that the politicians had their snouts in the trough enriching themselves from public funds. He stressed that the appearance of politicians rewarding themselves damaged everyone in the Chamber. He added that the proposal also misunderstood the way in which the London Councils Independent Remuneration Panel worked and the proposal was not in accordance with its recommendations; and proposal was contrary to the constitution as the remuneration was done annually yet the report did not mention it was changing the constitution. Councillor Drury requested that the report be withdrawn.

 

Councillors Sarah Merrill and Stephen Brain called for the “snouts in the trough” comment to be withdrawn. 

 

Councillor Chris Kirby did not agree that the proposal was a breach of the constitution, nor was it an extension of the budget rather it was about use of the existing budget. He commented on the opposition’s previous budget proposals, one of which in attacking the trade unions would have exploded the budget by £3million.

 

Councillor Nigel Fletcher contended that it was a breach of the constitution, and it was becoming a pattern following the changes to members’ questions. He recognised that the majority party could change the constitution as they willed but that the political system would only have the trust of people if they actually consulted with each other; arbitrary use of the majority to force through something would be open to the interpretation by people of being self-serving. He noted there were two Whips in the Chamber, as the Leader of the Council had acknowledged. He said they would usually expect, as an opposition, to be consulted through the whips process and through whips meetings. He felt changes to the constitution needed to be by consensus.

 

Councillor Danny Thorpe indicated that the Leader of the Opposition could contact him at any time on such matters, rather than resort to constant press releases or gimmicky tweets. Councillor Matt Hartley commented that the previous Leader of the Council used to consult on changes and he requested that the current Leader should consult the opposition as was the custom and practice.

 

The Council’s Head of Legal Services and Monitoring Officer was invited to comment on some of the constitutional matters that had been raised.

 

The Head of Legal Services advised that the updating of allowances part of the Members’ Allowances Scheme applied to inflationary increases every year not to changes of the nature proposed in the report. The Local Authorities (Members' Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003 allowed a local authority to amend its Scheme at any time. He was satisfied that the proposal was constitutionally acceptable.

 

The matter was put to the vote and with the majority party in favour and the minority party against it was

 

Resolved -

 

That an amendment to the Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) in the Members’ Allowance Scheme 2018/19 be agreed as follows -

 

(i)An increase to the SRA for the Chief Whip by £5,000 to take into account the level of work that is required for this position.

(ii)Set aside £10,000 to finance two project assistants (Elected Members) to work alongside Cabinet Members to support them, and the wider group, in the development of policy.

 

 

Supporting documents: