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What price a Mayor?

What price a Mayor?

🕔04.Feb 2017

The thorny issue of what we should pay the brand new elected Mayor of the West Midlands when they start work on 8th May has now become a battleground area for the candidates.

It seems it’s a choice between a Mayor giving most of a six figure salary away to charity, or one who promises to be compensated for his efforts on the basis of performance.

Chamberlain Files visitors may recall that the Clerk of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Wolverhampton Council Managing Director Keith Ireland, formed a committee which came up with a figure of between £30-40,000 per annum.

Even council leaders who have only very reluctantly agreed to having a Mayor realised that did not send the right signal about the importance of the new office or the WMCA.

Given the Mayor will have the biggest single elected mandate outside of London and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner is already handed £100,000 a year for his trouble, many could feel c.£40k is not commensurate with the role.

‘Mayoral Remuneration Proposals’ is on the agenda for the 17th March meeting of the WMCA when Cllr Bob Sleigh, WMCA Chair until the Mayor pops up, and Mr Ireland will present a new report.

The final salary, on which Communities Secretary Sajid Javid will have a say, is expected to be somewhere between £100- 140,000 per year.

The Green Party candidate, Cllr James Burn, has pledged to donate the majority of his Mayor’s salary to charity, if elected.

Cllr Burn said:

I am very concerned by the growing gap between the richest and everyone else in the West Midlands. I do not agree that the mayor should automatically demand the salary of a big business boss.

Executive pay has got completely out of control and is not justifiable. Most families in poverty are working, so something is clearly grossly wrong and the mayor needs to lead by example.”

A mayor can only represent the people by living like them and with them, to understand their concerns.

Therefore, I would only accept a salary equal to the average pay of a full-time worker in the West Midlands – that’s about £29,000 according to current figures. That’s still more than many in the region live on.

Chamberlain Files understands that both Cllr Burn and UKIP candidate Pete Durnell will tell the BBC Sunday Politics programme they are prepared to do the job for £29k.

Some observers might suggest that, given the relative electoral chances of the Green and UKIP candidates, it is a hollow gesture. But, then again, we live in interesting political times…

Cllr Burn continued:

The vast remainder of the salary – around 75%, would be used to help businesses start up in the least well-off areas, or given to Midlands’ charities, tackling some of the most important problems we face – including things like homelessness and loneliness.”

As mayor I want to support voluntary organisations who make a massive difference to some of the least well-off and most vulnerable, such as in Dudley where Age UK have had to close their activity centre for the elderly, and Coventry Comfort Carers who do an incredible job helping homeless people.

Conservative candidate Andy Street has hit back and pledged to become “the UK’s first ‘payment by results’ political leader” if elected.

Mr Street has now committed to his salary being performance related – meaning key Mayoral targets like job creation and economic growth, in addition to social indicators like workforce qualification levels, will decide his payment.

Mr Street’s “payment by results salary pledge” is identified as the eighth policy update of the campaign. He does not yet include any suggested target figures or criteria.

It will mean the WMCA deciding a base salary and a salary cap, with the difference determined by results, according to Mr Street.

If elected, Mr Street’s team believes it would be the first time a UK politician has worked on a performance pay related basis.

Chamberlain Files notes that the proposals do not stretch as far as turning the WMCA into a “workers’ co-operative”. Yet.

Mr Street did say:

Almost everyone has to deliver against targets in their jobs. And many people are paid on their ability to produce results. I have been used to this in John Lewis and I believe the role of Mayor should be no different.

This job is important. It gives the West Midlands the opportunity to tackle the big issues affecting everyone, and together achieve my aim of making this region the UK’s economic powerhouse.

The performance of the West Midlands, both in actual terms and against other comparable areas should help determine my pay.

Simply, I want, as they say, real ‘skin in the game’ just as young people across the region have.

People have grown tired of career politicians who make promises they fail to keep. This new way of doing things will create real accountability for delivery.

Given Mr Street’s successful career in business, it is unlikely that he is losing much sleep on the issue of Mayoral salary.

Beverley Nielsen of the Lib Dems has dismissed her Tory opponent’s claim that he would work for performance-related pay (PRP) as “gesture politics.”

The Mayor needs a long-term strategic focus, and can’t just aim for short-term targets. PRP can work well in a business environment, but we can’t bring such crude commercialism into the arena of public service,” she said.

Thinking short-term and focusing on boosting your earnings by hitting easy targets led us all into the devastating global crash of 2008, which some people seem to have forgotten.

We are in the era of gesture politics, and sadly Mr Street’s comments are gesture politics of the most meaningless kind, at both a personal and a practical level.

Maggie Thatcher thought she could run the country like a private household. Mr Street seems to think being Mayor of the West Midlands is like running a retail business.”

The Mayor’s salary isn’t confirmed, but we’ve been told it will be £50,000 pa, so I assume that’s correct.

Andy Street says he’d take ‘up to 50%’ via PRP – so up to £25,000. It’s a massive amount for most people in the West Midlands, but he earned more than £1m a year at John Lewis, so it’s easy for a millionaire to say he’d risk £25,000 over a year on his performance as Mayor.

I hoped this campaign would be about policies not personalities, but Mr Street opened Pandora’s Box when he raised this issue. People need to elect a Mayor who is obsessed by dealing with the issues, not by how much they will be paid.

If PRP was used to decide the Mayor’s salary, the West Midlands Combined Authority would spend far more money than the £25,000 which Mr Street mentions, analysing and vetting the data, then working out what amount should be paid out. It’s an absolute non-starter, and I hope it’s quickly forgotten.

I will wait to see what the panel recommends. When elected I will be a full time Mayor devoted to tackling the challenges in the West Midlands caused by successive Conservative and Labour run governments and councils. People need to elect someone who is obsessed by dealing with the issues, not by how much they will be paid.


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