Within minutes of the press statement published below and sent to the local media on Tuesday 24th February the Labour Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council let it be known that he would not accept a hike in his pay that would almost double his Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA).
All well and good you might say, so he should. But what was it all about?
In opposition the same Labour Leader spent four years telling anyone who would listen to him that Councillors allowances were too high and he often used words like obscene to illustrate it. He never missed an opportunity to bring the subject up. The Labour Manifesto for the elections promised to freeze Councillors basic allowance and reduce SRA. Last year they froze Councillors allowances but did not reduce SRA.
This year they have increased all allowances by 2.45% and still tried to claim it was in line with their manifesto promises. They decided not to increase the Labour Leaders pay to the level recommended by the Independent Renumeration Panel (IRP) and in a petty tit for tat move they deleted the SRA for the secondary opposition group leader (the Tory leader). But why did they ask for the increase in the Labour Leader's pay in the first place and then turn it down the moment there was a whiff of opposition. Clearly it was a publicity stunt to make the Labour Leader look good.
They are now claiming that they did not ask for this proposed increase but the IRP's report to the Council says differently:
Elected members, Partners and Officers were invited to the 'drop-in' session which resulted in 'face to face' meetings with the Leader of the Council, Chair of standards Committee, Chair of Main Overview and Scrutiny Committee' Leader of the Conservative
Group, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Communities Manager. Some the attendees at the 'drop in' had dual roles...
...The view of the interviewees was that the current assessment of SRA for the Leader should be higher as it was seen as a full time position. Similarly they also felt the current assessment for the Deputy leader should be higher. Some respondents also thought that the current assessment for cabinet Members should be higher. The positions of Leader, Deputy Leader and Members of the Cabinet were considered to be full-time and parity with other Local Authorities in the Tees valley should be considered.
Report of the Independent Renumeration Panel of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. Review of Members Allowances and recommendations. January 2009.