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Bonkers Blog May 2011

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22 May (Part 1) - Rogues Gallery

The list of councillors has been extensively revised though it is not yet complete. Allowances have proved to be a problem as the source material could be clearer. The amount of money involved is listed in one document and the jobs and names in another; one shows seven Labour councillors may be awarded £2,661 a year for Scrutiny Committee work but only four Scrutiny Committees are listed with a paid Labour spokesman. This may be due them being so few in number they have to take on two roles in which case only one allowance is payable. The corresponding Conservative chairmen get £8,802 - all these sums being in addition to the standard councillor rate of £9,418. Several committees are listed in one document but not the other and it is not possible to deduce if their Chairmen are paid or not.

The documentation says the basic £9,418 is to allow councillors “to cover incidental costs arising from such things as postage, telephone calls and travel and subsistence within the borough”. As I have said before, BT (other communications companies are available) will sell you an inclusive call tariff for not much over £200 a year and as councillors are unlikely not to already have had a phone before election, the additional telephone costs should be zero. Travel around the borough cannot cost more than £712 a year, the price of an annual bus Oyster Card. Why does a councillor need more than £1,000 a year allowance?

There are a few rules about collecting allowances one being that councillors are at liberty not to take the money and the other is that only one extra allowance may be claimed. As you might imagine, no one declines to take these enormous sums and the Conservatives have distributed their jobs such that none of them foregoes an allowance. No cabinet member for example works in a paid capacity on any Committee, that might deprive someone else of £8,802.

I am surprised to see councillor Chris Taylor appointed to chair the Adults’ Services Committee, in fact it its deeply ironic, he is still wet behind the ears himself. He took nearly a year to pluck up courage to make his maiden speech and a right old mess he made of that. So Bexley council appoint an inexperienced boy to be chairman of one of their Overview and Scrutiny Committees and he is a Political Adviser to the Greater London Authority too; it explains a lot.

Provision has been made to list councillors’ addresses although there is a potential problem of their making. As the council has been dragging its feet with Freedom of Information requests I am not sure which of their addresses is ‘home’ and many councillors have more than one address in the borough, one as many as four. I shall have to list them all!


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