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Labour Slammed For Electioneering While Bungling Senior Councillor Pay Cut Proposal

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Thursday, Mar 23rd, 2017.

Wrexham Council’s Labour Group were openly laughed at in the Guildhall Chamber when they bungled an amendment proposal, that in its first iteration was labelled as calling for a pay rise not a cut as intended.

A pay report was due to be ‘noted’ by Councillors, with a £100 pay rise being ‘forced’ on them by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales.

The report presented to councillors yesterday had two recommendations:-

– Members note the content of the Democratic Services Committee report in relation to the Independent Remuneration Panel determinations.

– The reimbursement of the cost of care should be published by reference to the total amount reimbursed by the Authority during the year but not naming the member(s) to whom the payments have been made in the previous financial year.

However Wrexham’s Labour Group tabled an amendment that would have changed the tiers of senior pay, along with other sections including a request for some senior councillors to forgo 10% of their wage entitlement, noting the context of wider austerity for the move.

The proposal was described as ‘electioneering, grandstanding and platforming’ by Council Leader Mark Pritchard, adding he was ‘furious’ that such an amendment had been put forward at all and that ‘some would think there is an election on its way’.

Cllr Pritchard added that the Independent Remuneration Panel ‘was set up so elected members do not set their own salary and it does not become a political football’.

At that point Cllr Dana Davies, Leader of the Labour Group made a point of order stating that the Council Leader was referring to ‘information that is not factual’. Cllr Davies continued onto say the issue was not on the topic of independent setting of basic salary, rather that the Independent Remuneration Panel sets two levels of senior salary – with Wrexham Councillors currently choosing the higher of the two levels and therefore a policy change could see that lowered.

Several councillors voiced concern that details of the tiers was not in the report before them, and therefore the debate could not be had in a proper manner due to lack of information.

Such debates throughout the meeting were also clouded aurally due to the poor acoustics with hammering rain on the roof, and the usual faulty speaker system, all compounded by the ongoing inability of some Councillors to understand how to use a microphone system after several years.

The Head of Finance told the meeting that councillors were due to just note a report rather than debate an amendment that people had seen for the first time, which contained details that were being checked out during the meeting by Officers.

It appeared at that point the the amendment was put forward the stated aim was to move senior pay from level 2 to level 1 tiers, which in practical terms was maintaining the pay level, however in a further misunderstanding many chuckled thinking a pay rise was being proposed.

An amendment to the amendment was put forward to correct things, so the ‘higher to the lower’ tiers and pay was clarified.

Cllr Pritchard who took advice during the meeting from Officers, was fiddling with his pen while theatrically doing some quick maths, gleefully asked for ‘clarification’ on the amendment as ‘we were looking at giving ourselves a rise a moment ago!’.

Cllr Steve Wilson called the debate so far a ‘shambles’ and that business was being conducted ‘on the hoof’ adding: “How can you ask members to vote on something like this when you cant even work out what you are asking them to do?”

After further echoes of unhappiness at the manner of business, the meeting progressed to a vote with the Officer asking: ‘Is everyone clear?’.

Cllr Griffiths said to murmurs of agreement from others and nodding heads: “To be honest I am not. I was very much in favour of us not accepting a rise and I have said that from word go. I am totally confused in what it is now.

“I do not want to say I am sitting on the fence with it as I want to say yay or nay, but I cant, I am totally confused.”

The amendments were re-stated and a vote took place, with Labour’s amendment defeated.

The issue was finally ‘noted’, with an additional vote with no votes against to take the topic back to the Democratic Services Committee.

After the meeting we spoke with Cllr Davies over the rather confused amendment. Cllr Davies said that errors had emerged after discussions earlier that day from the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales, and said she had been ‘taught a valuable lesson’ on checking all information herself.

Cllr Davies said: “I was shocked and dismayed by a vast number of councillors, who by their own admission, did not understand and were confused by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales banding and tier structure for Councillor’s Senior Salary pay.

“That leads me to raise the question that if the background paper to the report, IRP Annual Report February 2017, had been read why wasn’t the remuneration bands fully understood? The background paper clearly explains the banding and payment tier options on pages 12 to 16.”

The annual report in question is readable via this PDF, which does state variable levels, or tiers.

The document refers to Level 1 and 2, with various sub groups A B C below depending on which local authority has what size population ie. Cardiff is a Group A area whereas Wrexham is B. Group B Executive members could be paid either £29,100 or £26,200 with it noted “It is a matter for individual authorities to decide the implementation of the determinations within their specific cabinet structures.”

Committee Chairs are listed as having two pay options: £22,100 or £20,100. Again, it is noted: “It is a matter for individual authorities to determine which chairs are paid and at which level, to reflect the appropriate responsibility attached to the specific post.”

Interestingly in the report it notes a direct link between the expectation on the performance of councillors and their pay: “The Panel is aware of the importance placed by the Welsh Government on the value of the scrutiny function for local democracy and has noted that in total there are currently 90 chairs of scrutiny who receive senior salaries.

“The Panel believes that this is a clear recognition of the importance of this function.”

Such valuable scrutiny will take place with the Democratic Services Committee revisiting the whole issue, however the make up of that committee will be decided by you the voter.

In May you will get to decide who makes up the next Council, as the local elections are taking place. Have you made sure you, your friends and family are registered to vote? Will you also be making sure they actually turn out on polling day too?

(Pic: Money.)

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