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Councillors’ pay so poor Labour members can’t afford mortgages, cabinet member claims

Councillors’ pay so poor Labour members can’t afford mortgages, cabinet member claims

🕔04.Nov 2015

Birmingham Labour councillors are struggling to “pay their mortgage, their rent, and provide for their families” because the allowances they receive have been scaled back, a cabinet member has claimed.

Brigid Jones sent her 77 Labour colleagues a heartfelt message ahead of a vital vote in the council chamber on the wages paid to councillors deemed to have special responsibilities because they chair committees.

The council agreed a 25 per cent pay rise backdated to May for ten district and five scrutiny committee chairs, acting on recommendations from an independent remuneration committee.

The increase reverses a cut in allowances suggested by the committee last year.

With the 25 per cent increase added on, the special responsibility allowance for scrutiny chairs will be £12,500, on top of a basic allowance of £16,267.

The special responsibility allowance for district chairs has been increased to £7,500, on top of the £16,267 basic allowance.

Cllr Jones, the cabinet member for children’s services, receives allowances totalling £44,000 a year, including a £28,000 payment for being in the cabinet.

She said many Labour councillors were not putting themselves forward for committee chairmanships because they could not afford the loss of earnings from their day jobs.

Fearing that the panel’s 25 per cent pay rise recommendation for scrutiny and district committee chairs might be overturned at the council, Jones wrote to Labour colleagues:

“When we vote on members’ allowances later today, we have to do so in the full knowledge of what we are doing and the human impact that will have on our colleagues.

“Since the allowance cuts and pension cuts came in last May, I know there have been group members struggling to pay their mortgage, their rent, to provide for their families, to save for old age.

“I know that there are group members who would have put themselves forward for overview and scrutiny and district chair positions who haven’t, because they can’t afford the loss of earnings from their day jobs.

“I know there are others who stayed in the positions anyway and are struggling. A simple democratic principle should be that no person is barred from standing because of financial circumstance- there many reasons the average UK councillor is 60, white and male, and pay and conditions are no small part.

“Giving up a job with a pension contribution to do this simply isn’t an option for a lot of women who have taken working years out to have children, people who are providing for their own elderly relatives, or people who have come here from abroad without the chance to save earlier in life.

“Having the financial security to put your income and career progression on the line for a job like O&S or district chair isn’t something that is an option for people still paying off a mortgage, or with a rent to make by the end of the month, or with children and parents depending on them.

“Many group members make that sacrifice anyway, and struggle greatly with it. After the allowance cuts, I know more people have found it’s not an option for them and more people who have gone for it anyway are struggling.”

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