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Dale’s Diary: Mayor gets a pay rise, and the Norman conquest

Dale’s Diary: Mayor gets a pay rise, and the Norman conquest

🕔20.Jun 2016

Siôn Simon can rest easy. The Labour MEP won’t have to survive on a miserable stipend after all if, as many people expect, he becomes metro mayor of the West Midlands next year.

Council leaders got themselves into a bit of difficulty recently by accepting a report which suggested a reasonable salary for the mayor might be in the region of £30,000 to £40,000, which would have meant a 50 per cent pay cut for poor old Siôn.

The report came from Keith Ireland, who is the chief executive of Wolverhampton council and clerk to the West Midlands Combined Authority. The council leaders merely noted the document at the time and certainly did not reject the figure as being ludicrously low.

It seems the leaders have changed their minds, and Mr Ireland has been told in no uncertain terms that the mayor, who will have the biggest elected local government job outside of London, has to have a salary commensurate with his duties.

A very senior source in WMCA tells me that an independent remuneration committee is to be set up to consider how much to pay the mayor. The £40,000 figure is clearly “ridiculous” and a “non-starter”, the source adds.

The source adds that Mr Ireland’s report was never meant to be anything other than a finger in the air exercise and was not approved by the council leaders who were always going to appoint a remuneration panel in any case. So there.

The remuneration committee will look at the number of hours the mayor is expected to work and will compare the post with being an MP, an MEP, other elected offices, and also make private sector comparisons in an attempt to come up with a reasonable salary.

Whatever figure the independent panel comes up with will doubtless attract criticism.

MPs in Britain have a basic salary of £74,962. British MEPs are paid at the same rate.

The Prime Minister’s salary is £143,462, which includes the £74,962 basic pay.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, gets by with £143,911 a year.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson is on £100,000, as is Greater Manchester PCC and interim mayor Tony Lloyd.

Meanwhile, WMCA, finally up and running after a hiccup or two, is about to go out to consultation on the powers to be handed to the mayor, which will be few and far between if the council leaders get their way.

The final decision will be in the hands of Communities Secretary Greg Clark, who must already be creased with laughter at the prospect of a £40,000 West Midlands mayor. On the other hand, if the mayor has little in the way of power perhaps £40,000 is about right.

Norman Fowler’s 46-year career in the public eye shows little sign of slowing down.

The former Sutton Coldfield MP has become the first male elected Speaker of the House of Lords, elected by his fellow Peers that is.

The veteran Tory held three cabinet positions in the Thatcher governments – Transport, Social Services and Employment. He was also Conservative Party chairman from 1992 to 1994.

In 1990 Lord Fowler became the first politician to claim upon leaving government that he wanted to spend more time with his family, and in his case the excuse was plausible. He had recently re-married and had young children.

Sir Norman, as he then was, became chairman of Midland Independent Newspapers, owners of the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail, Coventry Evening Telegraph and Sunday Mercury.

It was at that time Sir Norman came across my radar during a visit to Coventry when I was political editor at the Evening Telegraph. Having spent much of the past decade in the cabinet where he was chauffeured here there and everywhere Sir Norman proved to be incapable of locating the Evening Telegraph offices and had to telephone for help, explaining that he had managed to park his car somewhere in Coventry but had no idea where he was.

It turned out Sir Norman was in the new West Orchards shopping centre and a nervous hack was sent to find the newspaper chairman and shepherd him to the office. Following his ‘royal tour’ of the building and a doubtless sumptuous lunch in the directors’ suite, I was assigned to walk Sir Norman back to his car.

When we arrived at West Orchards he declared himself to be amazed by the shiny new escalators and sparkling glass atrium. Easily impressed, obviously.

After being elected Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler quipped: “Of course, with the election over, the good news is that the bar on offering hospitality now comes to an end and we can buy drinks for colleagues. The bad news is that, inadvertently, today I seem to have mislaid my wallet.”

He clearly hasn’t lost his sense of humour as well as his money.

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