Remuneration panel to decide how much assistant council leaders should be paid
Plans to appoint four assistant Birmingham city council leaders to head up a devolution drive are being considered by an independent remuneration panel which is examining whether the new roles should attract special responsibility payments.
The panel, which advises the council on appropriate payments for the work councillors undertake, is talking to city leader John Clancy who announced in April his intention to appoint assistants to lead a year-long view of localism and produce proposals for a long-term process of change towards a “more bottom up and inclusive approach to leadership in Birmingham”.
Cllr Clancy said he intends to reveal the identities of the assistant leaders early next month and the four will be officially confirmed at the June 28 cabinet meeting.
He also plans to announce at the same meeting deputy cabinet members who will shadow cabinet members and provide advice from the backbenches. The scheme is in response to the critical Kerslake Review which pointed to lack of contact or co-operation between the cabinet and other council members.
The likelihood of the assistant council leaders being handed special responsibility allowances is likely to be greeted with protests by opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors who fear the appointments may be seen as a way of the council leader rewarding his political supporters.
Liberal Democrat group leader Jon Hunt is demanding clarification about how the assistant leaders will be appointed and warned there was a danger they might end up as “political commissars”.
It is unclear at the moment whether all of the assistant leaders and the cabinet deputies will be members of the controlling Labour group.
Last year, when running to become council leader, Cllr Clancy said the assistant leaders would “challenge the council’s political and administrative leaders to deliver real devolution in whatever way works in their areas”.
He insisted his shake-up of roles would not lead to an overall increase in the amount the authority hands to councillors in allowances.
Birmingham city council is the most generous local authority in the country when it comes to rewarding elected members. Each of the 120 city councillors receives a £16,267 basic allowance. Cabinet members are paid £25,000 on top of the basic allowance. Committee chairs receive between £15,000 and £12,500 on top of the basic allowance.
Cllr Clancy is paid £50,000 plus the £16,267 allowance. His deputy Ian Ward receives £40,000 as well as the basic allowance.
All of the payments are based on working three days a week and are subject to a public service discount of 25 per cent.
Last month Cllr Clancy told a scrutiny committee the assistant council leaders would play a vital role in helping to push devolution to neighbourhood level by unleashing the “latent talent” of residents and encouraging them to play a far more active role in local government.
He emphasised an “absolute determination” to reach cross-party agreement on a new devolved structure for the council. Opposition Tory and Liberal Democrat leaders will sit on a new cabinet committee which he will chair along with the assistant leaders and district committee chairs to draw up a devolution strategy.
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