When austerity ends and the financial restrictions on councils are eased a little what should the priority be for Rotherham Borough Council? Reversing cuts to essential services? Reversing the hundreds of job losses? Perhaps even helping hard pressed local families by reducing council tax?
It would appear we don’t have to speculate in Rotherham as the issue is so important to councillors they have enshrined their main priority in an appendix to the council’s constitution.
The appendix in question is number 8 titled “Members Allowance Scheme”
Over the past 2 years councillors have given the impression they have cut their allowances by 1.15% in an act of empathy with council employees who have seen such a reduction in their earnings. Councillors seeking election have used this in their election campaigns and given it widespread media coverage.
Personally when you consider that some of the allowances councillors pay themselves are up to 137% more than equivalent allowances in Sheffield and that by reducing allowances to the same rates as Sheffield and the ratio of councillors to people to the same as Sheffield we could save £450,000 per year the approximate saving of £39,000 over 2 years is a bit pathetic.
Here’s the killer and why I said they have given the impression they have cut their allowance. According to Appendix 8 it is not a cut but an adjustment that will be restored once the redaction from council employees ends, something that has been given no media coverage and I quote Apendix 8 Section 13 (Adjustment Of Allowances) part 1
“The basic allowance and special responsibility allowances set out in this scheme have been reduced by 1.15%. This arrangement will be continued whilst ever a reduction of a similar percentage is applied to the remuneration of Council employees. Thereafter, the full allowances will become payable once more.”
Basically next April allowances will revert to their value for 2010/11, also it will mean that any increase will be based in the case of the basic allowance on £12,270.96 and for example Cllr Stone his leaders allowance from £32,544.
As an aside you will also note that subsistence allowances have still been allowed to rise at the rate of inflation.
The big issue that councillors don’t seem to get is that the issue of their what I would call excessive allowances isn’t the money but of leadership by example.
When austerity ends services such as the youth club here in Thrybergh will remain shut, jobs will still have been shed and thousands of Rotherham families will still be struggling to make rent but our councillors will be onto a sure thing and able to get their allowances straight back on track.
Link to Appendix 8