Fury over councillors' "back door" pay rises
- Published 17/08/12 6:00 am
The Labour Group is putting forward a proposal to the next council meeting on September 10 to reorganise the way the executive board works by creating a new committee structure - something they have been considering behind the scenes since before March last year.
Lib Dem leader Ian Marks (pictured) said: "We are amazed that the Labour Group can consider giving 32 out of their 41 councillors these special allowances in the current economic climate.
"At a time when staff are not getting pay increases and the Labour group is pushing through cuts that by their own admission will impact some of the most vulnerable members of our society, it is outrageous.
"We are sympathetic to a change in the way the council is run if it enables backbenchers and opposition parties to be more involved.
"The executive board model was brought in by a Labour Government and we are pleased that the Coalition Government is now allowing more flexibility and local freedom to change.
"But the Labour Group should take the opportunity to save some money - not give a pay increase to their own by the back-door."
Cllr Marks said his group would need to see the proposals in full before commenting in detail. Reverting to a committee system had merit, but it was doubtful if it could sit side-by-side with an executive board.
"It is one or the other, not a fudged compromise."
Leader of the council Terry O'Neill announced a review of the present executive board structure and committee system at the annual meeting of the council in May last year. The review started in the July.
According to confidential papers leaked to Warrington-Worldwide the proposals were "parked up" ahead of the council elections in May.
Labour say the changes will lead to improved, quicker and more streamlined decision-making.
They claim all members of the council will be included in policy and decision making.
Policy will be developed through a committee system involving all members from the outset.
In March this year, the size of the new executive board remained to be settled. But now the proposal seems to be for a board consisting of the council leader, the deputy leader and seven portfolio holders - a reduction of one on the current board. But there will also be four policy committees, each dealing with different aspects of council service, plus a scrutiny committee.
Five "lead portfolio holders" are named - councillors Colin Froggatt, Pat Wright, Kate Hannon, Russ Bowden and Hitesh Patel.
Although the proposals aim to be cost neutral, they provide for 32 special responsibility allowances - subject to the independent remuneration panel which already oversees councillors' allowances.