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Austerity hits politicians as Birmingham councillors face pay cuts of up to 60%

Austerity hits politicians as Birmingham councillors face pay cuts of up to 60%

🕔01.Sep 2014

A planned shake-up to the system of special allowances paid to cabinet members and committee chairs at Birmingham city council could see politicians suffering pay cuts of up to 60 per cent.

In the most wide-ranging changes for years to the expenses and allowances system, an independent remuneration panel is proposing to slash special responsibility allowances for a number of posts which it says have been over valued in the past.

The panel’s recommendations would reduce the total SRA bill by 18 per cent, but a small number of councillors are set to suffer significant cuts.

By far the biggest pay cut would be suffered by employment and human resources committee chair Mohammed Afzal. If the proposals are accepted by the council, his SRA will fall from £14,803 to £6,000, a reduction of 59 per cent.

There’s bad news, too, for Birmingham’s 10 district committee chairmen.

At the moment, they receive a SRA of £10,574. Under the proposed changes, the sum will plummet to £6,000 – a pay cut of 43 per cent.

The proposal is likely to be greeted with protests from the district chairs, who have responsibility for running local services with multi-million budgets and have already been complaining about being over worked and under paid.

Cabinet members would lose £3,200 a year, with their SRAs cut to £25,000.

The SRA paid to the chairman of the main scrutiny committee, Carl Rice, would fall from £12,689 to £11,000. The other scrutiny committee chairmen would see their SRAs cut from £12,689 to £10,000.

All 120 city councillors would continue to receive a basic allowance of £16,267.

Remuneration panel chairman Sandra Cooper said in her annual report to the council she was proposing cutting Cllr Afzal’s SRA because the responsibility attached to the job did not match expectations.

As far as the district committee chairmen are concerned, the panel report noted: “The evidence presented shows that all decisions are made by the full district committee and the responsibility and impact of decisions that the executive members for local services make is limited.

“The panel recognise the aspiration for localisation and the discharge of power to the executive members for local services and await the evidence to support this.”

Council leader Sir Albert Bore’s SRA is proposed to be £50,000, down by just £352.

Deputy council leader Ian Ward would be one of a very few councillors to benefit from the shake-up.

It’s proposed that his SRA should rise from £37,764 to £40,000. The panel report concluded that Cllr Ward was “providing greater support to the leader than previously”.

The proposals have already caused rumblings of discontent in the Council House.

The city’s director of legal services, David Tatlow, is warning that the changes “produce concerns of a legal nature”. His proposal that pay cuts be phased in over two years has been accepted by the panel.

Mr Tatlow is also questioning the evidence put forward by the panel. He said: “‘Cabinet members’ are noted as ‘no longer having an overall individual responsibility for a portfolio but a more collective responsibility with other cabinet members’.

“However, cabinet members have always had a collective responsibility for cabinet matters and cabinet decisions. They have also always had an individual portfolio although to a limited extent a small part of cabinet portfolios are now shared with more than one cabinet member.

“Accordingly there is no apparent justification for the small decrease in the allowance for cabinet members.”

Mr Tatlow added: “Members may rely upon allowances as a main source of income although this will vary from member to member. However it does not appear fair and reasonable that significant reductions should be proposed without time notice to the members concerned. It would also appear reasonable to limit any overall reduction in one year to an agreed reasonable amount – which the Monitoring Officer suggests should usually be no more than 20 per cent in any one year.”

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