Politicians rubbing their hands at the prospect of being given top jobs in Birmingham’s new Labour-led city council administration will not be quite as well rewarded as they first thought.
In fact, prospective cabinet members and chairmen of scrutiny and regulatory committees are staring at pay cuts of up to 16 per cent.
A 10 per cent reduction in Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) has already been agreed by the outgoing Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition in an attempt to show the people of Birmingham that “we feel your pain” during these harsh economic times.
And now it’s emerged that a further six per cent could be lopped from the allowances by orders of the Labour Party. The last Labour conference backed the proposal to take up to six per cent from allowances paid to its councillors across the country.
But unlike the 10 per cent cut, the six per cent levy won’t be a saving to the public purse. The money will still be paid each month to councillors who will then “voluntarily” hand it over in order to help patch up the Labour Party’s rocky finances.
The special levy won’t just apply to SRAs, but will also hit the basic £16,267 a year paid to all Labour councillors in Birmingham.
Unsurprisingly, the proposal prompted a stormy reaction at a recent Labour group meeting with protests from a number of quarters. It seems that the national Labour Party levy was originally to have been set at two per cent, but this figure can be topped up to six per cent if council groups agree at a local level.
A 16 per cent cut would reduce the total council salary paid to incoming city leader Sir Albert Bore by a whopping £11,000, but he would still be on about £61,000 plus the £55,000 he receives for being chairman of the Birmingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Cabinet members would find themselves £7,600 the poorer, and even backbenchers without SRAs would be £972 worse off.
To make matters worse, the additional levy of two or six per cent will go to help fund the West Midlands Labour Party which is an organisation with the ability to stir up strong feelings among many a local councillor.
The six per cent levy is believed to be supported by Sir Albert and deputy Labour leader Ian Ward. But the pair will find it difficult to get agreement at the annual group meeting this Saturday and may have to make compromises.
The meeting must also make a decision about Sir Albert’s continuing chairmanship of the hospital trust since the council constitution states that being leader of the council must be a full time job. With 76 Labour councillors to contend with, including many new faces, Sir Albert can’t be certain of winning the day on this issue even though he has made clear his wish to remain at the hospital.
And if you thought things were getting lively, what about Mike Whitby’s chauffeur-driven Jaguar that Sir Albert will inherit when he becomes council leader? The car has been a symbol of Tory fat-cattery for many Labour councillors during the past few years and Sir Albert may find himself obliged to trade down to something rather more in-keeping with the People’s Party.
There is, however, one item of good news for Sir Albert. He won’t face a challenge for the Labour leadership after Quinton councillor John Clancy decided against throwing his hat into the ring.
Clancy, who unsuccessfully fought Sir Albert for the leadership a year ago, has had second thoughts and doesn’t want to rock the boat.
Coun Clancy said: “What matters most at this time is Labour, united, getting on with the job of work the people of Birmingham have given them. To get Birmingham back to work and to do what it can to protect the people from the consequences of the continuing and failed economic experiments of the Tory and Liberal coalition.
“While the other parties may have leadership challenges, our leadership should, and undoubtedly will, continue without such challenge, and that is right. I obviously want to back our party fully and also our current leadership in this city in the very challenging tasks it has to undertake this year.”