For many years this paper has debated the pros and cons of councillor salaries – invariably using this column to question pay rises of the cabinet and asking whether the residents of the borough were getting good value for money.
Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that proper remuneration for the people making the key decisions for the future of this borough was necessary. If you don’t pay decent wages, you run the risk of restricting the range of person who can be a councillor, or having them simply move on within a year or two. And senior council officers, (on much higher wages), need proper political direction in order to carry out their duties effectively.
That being said, it comes as no surprise that the opposition Lib Dems are questioning the new practice, brought in under the current Labour administration of handing out ‘golden handshakes’ to departing cabinet members – to the tune of over £24,000 this year. This means that someone deemed fit for the chop in a cabinet reshuffle, or someone who decides to leave and pursue a different career, is eligible for a pay-off.
In the private sector, if an employee is sacked, a payout may well be made. Yet this would be part of negotiations in a dispute – not automatic reward for failure. And someone who resigns will simply have to work their notice, so the idea of handing in your resignation and getting a pay-off just beggars belief.
The district auditor is looking into the legality of this move, according to the Lib Dems, whilst central government sources told us this week that it was likely to be looked at unfavourably.
The council claims it will help to attract and retain diverse cabinet members – but it should be the salary and opportunity to serve the public that does this, not a pay-off for being let go or for going elsewhere. And as for the argument that it was approved by council assembly – given that the assembly has a thumping Labour majority, is it a surprise that they voted this through for their cabinet, and hence, themselves?