Last night Penarth Town Council formally agreed controversial proposals to break with tradition and begin paying its Leader and at least some of its councillors what were described as “salaries” – and to offer a package of “allowances” to other members.
Under the restrictions on reporting imposed by the Labour-run council last night the decision on councillor’s salaries was the only business which could be reported.
The decision follows recommendations made by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales which were endorsed – virtually without discussion – by Penarth Town Council’s ill-attended Finance and HR Committee on December 22nd last year.
The new councillor’s salaries – which some prefer to call “allowances” include regular monthly payments to the Leader and so-called “senior councillors” and a raft of various allowances which they and other councillors can claim.
The money to pay the new allowances will be come from the (as yet unspecified) 2018/19 Penarth Town Precept to be charged to local residents on their Council Tax bills.
Because Penarth Town Council is rated as an “A” category council (based on its annual expenditure and the level of income from the Penarth Precept) the panel is authorising it to pay what amounts to ‘salaries’ for most of its members
- The Leader of Penarth Town Council – (Cllr Mike Cuddy, Labour St Augustines) will now be paid up to £1,500 p.a. as a “Civic Leader’s” salary.
- The Deputy Mayor (Cllr Jon Luxton Labour Stanwell) [who didn’t show-up at last night’s meeting and has still to have his Member’s Interests declaration published on the council’s website] – can be paid up to a maximum amount of £500 p.a. to undertake the functions of that office.
- The council is to make an annual payment of £500 a year to 5 senior councillors in recognition of “specific responsibilities”.
- All Penarth Town Councillors ( including the “senior councillors” can also charge £150 a year for “costs and expenses“.
TRAVEL EXPENSES:- All Penarth Town Councillors will be able to charge travel expenses according to the following scale:-
- 45p per mile up to 10,000 miles in the year.
- 25p per mile over 10,000 miles.
- 5p per mile per passenger carried on authority business.
- 24p per mile for private motor cycles.
- 20p per mile for bicycles. [There is no reimbursement proposed for walking to the venue of a council engagement – an omission which might be seen by some as discrimination in favour of the vociferous left-wing cycling lobby]
- Councillors using public transport can reclaim the actual costs incurred.
CHILD-CARE AND PERSONAL ASSISTANCE:
All Penarth councillors can charge up to £403 per month for “child-care provided by formal and informal carers” and for personal assistance if they require it.
The Independent Remuneration Panel requires all Town Councils to “publish details of all payments made to individual members in an annual Statement of Payments. . [The Labour-run Penarth Town Council has yet to comply with this requirement.]
Last night there appeared to be some rowing-back of the Conservative position on the introduction of the new “allowances” by the leader of the Conservative group on Penarth Town Council Cllr Martin Turner (Conservative Plymouth Ward).
Despite his political affiliations – and the fact that he is chairman of the Penarth Branch of the Conservative Association – Cllr Turner rarely opposes the controlling Labour Group and usually votes with it .
Cllr Turner – whose daughter Kathryn McCaffer also serves as a Penarth Councillor representing Plymouth Ward – had perhaps agreed rather too readily to a Labour proposal on December 22nd to recommend the new councillors’ salaries to the full council.
When Penarth Council’s “Finance and HR Committee” (attended by only 3 members) had discussed a motion to recommend the adoption of the new “allowances”, Cllr Turner had seconded the Labour motion – saying “ In principle yes – let’s agree yes”.
Last night however Cllr Turner said he wanted to make a comment about that Finance and HR Committee meeting . He said “Unfortunately there were only 3 members of the committee there, so there was not much opportunity for a discussion involving everybody else”.
Cllr Turner said he had seconded the [Labour] proposal [to pay councillors the new allowances] “on the basis that there would be a re-structuring of the committees – and therefore the process of implementation of the recommendation would not be made until those committees had been formed and agreed by the council – so to some extent this is early days”. [PDN has no note of his actually having made such remarks in the committee. The PDN report of that committee meeting is on http://tinyurl.com/y8utbffr ] .
Cllr Turner went on to say that he thought it was “disappointing” that the Independent Remuneration Panel “perhaps did not do what we are trying to do to encourage more and more new people to get involved in the council”.
He said that to just offer the new allowances to the Leader of the Council [Cllr Mike Cuddy Labour St Augustines] and to the chairs of committees – was a “retrograde step in terms of trying to get new people involved in council work ” . Cllr Turner said it would be better to share out the allocated money amongst ALL the councillors rather than just give it to some of them.
Cllr Mark Wilson (Labour Stanwell) who would normally have chaired the Finance and HR Committee of December 22nd, had been unwell at the time. He said he concurred with what Cllr Turner had said. Cllr Wilson said it was a “disappointment” that the Independent Remuneration Panel should specify that the new allowances should only be paid to “senior” people.
Cllr Wilson said Cllr Turner was correct in saying that Penarth Council’s controlling Labour group would “revisit this when we’ve got the new [committee] structure” .
Cllr Wilson also noted that “certain people – and obviously I am one of them – may or may not take that salary ” [ Cllr Wilson – who is a salaried member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council – is already on record as saying he would decline to accept the new Penarth Town Council salary for committee chairmen].
Cllr Wilson endorsed the new report with a view to taking it to the “new council” [ i.e. the council formed after the Annual General Meeting in May 2018 – which will still be controlled by Labour but in which the committee structure will be changed] .
Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) who is Leader of the council, said that representations of that sort could be made to “One Voice Wales” (the association of local councils in Wales) who would be meeting the Independent Remuneration Panel to consider allowances for councillors for the following year. Cllr Cuddy pointed out that the panel had already recommended the payment of Child Care for councillors who would otherwise be unable to attend council meetings [ an arrangement which is now to be part of all qualifying Penarth Town Council members’ salary packages]
Cllr Cuddy said it was very difficult to “incentivise” some councillors without discriminating against others. He said said this was a matter which could go back to the Finance and HR Committee and could be reviewed again at that stage.
Cllr Nigel Humphrey (Labour St Augustines) appeared to be sensitive about the use of the word “salary” in respect of the new councillors’ allowances . He said “Can I just make clear this is not a salary – it’s members’ allowances – in respect of time spent ” [PDN Note: In fact the chairman of the Finance and HR Committee Cllr Mark Wilson DID refer to the new allowances as “salaries”. ]
Cllr Ben Gray (Conservative Plymouth Ward) said the involvement of the Finance and HR committee was a way of “removing politics from something which can be a quite hotly-debated topic and any suggestion that £500 or £1000 is a salary is obviously laughable for the number of hours that councillors will do each year “.
Cllr Gray said there were many of voluntary roles where people were given “a stipend or allowance or have expenses reimbursed in order to carry out a voluntary role. That principle is quite well accepted”. He said however that it would be right for the council to “revisit” the issue of which councillors would receive the new allowances.
Cllr Gray – who is a salaried member of the Vale of Glamorgan Council – said that if Penarth Town Council gave him an allowance he would make a donation to a charity – but he did not think that people “should be forced to make a choice”. He said “We don’t want a situation where people are being hauled over hot coals because they claimed for 2 miles of mileage”. People should not be out-of-pocket for doing a “voluntary role”. “This is about how we cover the costs without it turning into an issue”, he said.
Cllr Gary Allman (Conservative St Augustines) said he totally supported what Cllr Gray had said.
Cllr Mark Wilson said it had been a good debate and he agreed with the matter being taken up with One Voice Wales to make representations to the Independent Remuneration Panel. He also thought that – through One Voice Wales – Penarth Town Council should establish what degree of latitude it had on paying the new allowances.
Cllr Cuddy said that a motion needed to go to the Welsh Government and to the Renumeration Panel as well. Cllr Cuddy said there were 8,000 councillors throughout Wales. The matter was a tricky one – not least because of the huge difference in the size of local councils – of which Barry was the largest.
Cllr Gray said that he disagreed with Barry’s Town Council’s decision to reject ALL the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel – including carer’s allowances – was “the wrong way to go”. There should be no “barrier” to people getting involved in local politics.
Penarth Town Council is now to implement the new councillors’ salaries but has yet to spell out the precise detail of who will receive them – and when.