On 9th December the Evening Standard published an article on councillors’ allowances in London. I’ve constructed a table which tries to put Greenwich in context:
|2009-2010 Figures||London Average||Greenwich|
|Total of councillors’
|Leader of Council’s total
Looking at this, it appears that Greenwich is in the mainstream on total expenditure and the amounts paid to ward councillors, but that Council Leader Chris Roberts receives almost 25% more than the average for his job. Indeed the figure in the table is inflated by including the three elected Mayors. In the 29 Boroughs without elected Mayors, only two leaders seem to have done better than Mr Roberts.
When challenged previously about his allowances Chris Roberts has correctly claimed that they are in line with the recommendations of London Councils (LC) the representative body for local government in London
Now LC is effectively run on behalf of Council Leaders and cynics might say that its views on what they should get paid are about as valuable as those of a committee of sharks on bathing arrangements at Sharm el Sheikh. Indeed Chris Roberts received £10,000+ from LC in 2009-10 on top of his Greenwich Council money (as did many other leaders).
Be that as it may, it is true that an independent panel appointed by LC says that being a Council Leader is
“a full-time job, involving a high level of responsibility and now includes the exercise of executive responsibilities. It is right that it should be remunerated on a basis which compares with similar positions in the public sector, while still retaining a reflection of the voluntary character of public service“.
This panel recommended that Council Leaders in London be paid a total of £64,864 per annum. I would agree with the principle set out by the panel but not necessarily with the amount they came up with. In practice almost all Councils choose to regard it as a ceiling rather than a direction - indeed Greenwich pays its councillors who are Cabinet Members significantly less than the LC recommendation for their role. However for Chris Roberts alone the letter of the law applies.
Does Mr Roberts deserve more money then his peers in the rest of London? Well it is certainly true to say that Greenwich has a good record in keeping Council Tax low over the last decade or so, although it is difficult to disentangle how much of this is down to good housekeeping and how much to the effects of Government funding formulas. On the other hand Greenwich is consistently ranked as being below the London average in the quality of its services.
I conclude therefore that, while Chris Roberts has displayed a basic level of competence as Council Leader since 2000, he is by no means a municipal superstar and his pay should be reduced to the London average. While a saving of £12,287 would only be a drop in the ocean in the Council’s current position, it would be a sign of the Council’s good faith and common sense as it starts to navigate the troubled waters ahead.