Thursday 26 February 2009
Brian Coleman says political service should be a calling not a career
I have been accused by certain characters of using this blog to be horrible to Brian Coleman by pointing out that his current allowances total nearly £103,000. But regular readers will know that I have often written articles praising the Great One where praise is due.
I am therefore indebted to a reader who has drawn my attention to an article Our Brian wrote for the New Statesman in December 2007 under the title “Serving should be a vocation”. In the article, Brian says:
When I was first elected to my local council the annual allowance payable to a councillor in suburban Barnet was £600 (less income tax). There was also a complicated attendance scheme that necessitated filling out a monthly form which most members, including me, couldn't be bothered with for the sake of a couple of quid.
Then along came the 2000 Local Government Act and the end of the century-old committee tradition of doing business. The replacement was executive government in councils.
Cabinets were devised, councillors became "portfolio holders"; substantial allowances were paid, and members became eligible for the Local Government Pension Scheme.
Some council leaders now receive up to £65,000 per annum and, for being an executive member, the average in London is about £30,000.
To keep the backbenchers happy so-called 'Special Responsibility Allowances' now have to be paid for all sorts of minor, functionary positions: £2,500 for being vice-chair of the Trees and Cemeteries Scrutiny Committee or for turning up at a Licensing Committee once a year. In short big money for local politicians.
The danger of this, of course, is leaders now win or lost their positions on the strength of who they had promised well paid jobs to.
And I fear getting to form an administration in local government has more to do with how all the allowances are distributed than which councillor is best for which job.
The repeal of the 2000 Local Government Act, the ending of executive powers for councillors and a return to proper, accountable, local democracy would be a first step to ensuring that service rather than salary was the driving force for Local Councillors.
Political service should be a calling not a career!
Brian, I agree with you 100%. Can we have our money back please?