Friday, September 02, 2011

Are Councillors worth the money?

There has been a great deal of outrage in some quarters recently over the continuing saga of Russell three jobs Roberts (or however many he has these days) and the substantial amount of money he takes from the public purse.  I won’t use the word ‘earns’ because in my view he certainly doesn’t do that.
As reported here he was paid more than £1,800 a week from the public purse in 2010-11.  Certainly not a new situation - old three jobs (or is it four) has been at it for some time.
Is this exorbitant?  Yes.  Should it be stopped?  Undoubtedly.  Is he worth that salary?  No way.
Yet there are some people who would go completely the other way and claim that Councillors should not be paid at all - they should do it out of the goodness of their hearts.  Strangely enough these people are usually those who never put their head above the parapet and actually get involved in any way.  They prefer to snipe from the sidelines and use the old adage that ‘they’re all the same.’
As has been clearly stated by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales the role of a Councillor is regarded as a job.  In their initial report they stated that the role of a Councillor

“has inevitably become more complex over recent years as local government has moved from being primarily a service provider towards a model which more strongly emphasises its leverage, brokering and influencing role.”

In outlining this role they conclude that:
o    Councillors view their role in representing their community as one of the most important parts of their work and it is widely agreed that this role is time-consuming and demanding. Councillors can spend considerable time each week on ward work.
o    The role of community leader is also important both formally through councillors sitting on bodies such as local community groups and also by acting as a focus for community action.
o    Councillors have an important role as the link between the council and partner organisations. It is recognised that often a community issue cannot be dealt with in isolation and councillors (and indeed the council as an organisation) need to work in partnership with other public and voluntary sector bodies.
o    Councillors also make an important contribution as members of other bodies.
In relation to the question of payment they say that
“We feel strongly that the role of the councillor across Wales should be respected as a professional one.”

Their initial determination was that
“That the Basic Allowance be reset in line with the All Wales full-time male and female median salary which in 2008/2009 was £22,115 pa. In this alignment, remunerated public service set at the equivalent of three working days per week, results in an (indicative) Basic Allowance of £13,269 pa.”
In respect of Cabinet / Executive Members (including leaders Russell) then the clearly expressed intention was that they should be full time and that would be reflected in the level of payment.
Now I have absolutely no problem with the concept of Councillors getting paid a fair rate for the job, and I consider the basic rate to be fair.  I also have no real problem with the rates of Cabinet Member and Leader but they should in return be doing the job full time and not topping it up by sitting on other bodies which take them away from Council duties.  That is reflected in the submission made by RCT Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillors to the Panel’s various consultations.
Being a Councillor is not easy.  If done properly then it involves a considerable amount of work, and it is a thankless task – there is always someone waiting to have a dig.  Maybe if more of those who spend so much time criticising got off their backsides and did something useful then they would have more respect for those who currently do.

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