Sunday, 24 July 2011

More on Merseytravel's & Mark Dowd's 'Gravy Train'

More on Merseytravel’s ‘Gravy Train’

On Thursday I reported how the BBC in the North West were starting to take a serious interest in the “Gravy Train” antics of the Labour Chair of the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority (MITA), Bootle’s very own Councillor Mark Dowd. http://birkdalefocus.blogspot.com/2011/07/victory-bbc-report-curbs-at-gravy-train.html

Arif Ansari, the BBC’s Political Editor for the North West, reported the latest news on Cllr Dowd’s £47,665pa position, which makes him one of the highest paid councillors in the country.

However, I now learn that Cllr Dowd received rather more than that (pretty impressive) £47,665.  In fact, his pay and expenses for last year totalled £62,346.  Not that you could find the full details anywhere – because of what might be described a 'cover-up'.

My Birkdale Ward colleague, Simon Shaw, has been doing some checking up on the legalities on the disclosure of what councillors are paid.  And it appears that MITA may not been keeping to the rules.

Like all local authorities, MITA is required by law to publicise the amounts of allowances and expenses paid to councillors ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ after the year end.

That’s spelt out very clearly in something called the "Local Authorities (Members' Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003".  This states at s. 15(3) "As soon as reasonably practicable after the end of a year to which the scheme relates, an authority shall make arrangements for the publication within the authority's area of the total sum paid by it in the year under the scheme to each recipient in respect of each of the following: basic allowance; special responsibility allowance; …… travelling and subsistence allowance; ……"

If you want to check for yourself you can find it all here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2003/1021/contents/made

So MITA are meant to publicise as soon as reasonably practicable after the year end how much Cllr Dowd and his Labour colleagues pay themselves with our money.  The only problem is that they haven’t.

As Simon explains: “MITA’s financial year runs to the end of March and we are now nearly 4 months on.  These details should have been placed on their website months ago.  As of this weekend they still aren’t there”

“It seems that a cover-up may be taking place.  Clearly Labour are embarrassed about the press storm that has developed in recent weeks over the obscene level of pay and expenses that Merseytravel’s controlling Group have decided to pay themselves.”

However, despite this veil of secrecy, we have managed to obtain a full list of allowances and expenses for last year.

We are able to confirm that Cllr. Mark Dowd received a total of £62,346 in the year to March 2011.  That was comprised of £47,665 in pay from Merseytravel, £8,970 in pay from Sefton Council and £5,711 in expenses from Merseytravel.

I think most of us will agree with Simon when he points out: “That’s actually more than most local Primary School headteachers earn.  Nice work if you can get it!  Although I suppose it does help if you can decide your own level of pay.”

If you want to see what all the members (most of whom are Labour) receive, the full details are here
http://birkdalefocus.blogspot.com/p/merseyside-integrated-transport.html

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