Friday, 10 July 2009

Councillor's allowances

At last night's Full Council I asked a question to my colleague Tony Robertson:


9 JULY 2009


1. Question submitted by Councillor Brodie Browne to the Leader of the Council (Councillor Robertson)

“Can the Leader use his best endeavours to have placed on the Council website a detailed list of all allowances actually paid to individual Councillors, both by the Council and by those bodies - both locally and nationally - funded from the Council tax through a precept or levy”

This may seem a strange question so let me explain the sub text. Many councillors sit bodies that are funded via local councils. There are allowances -which are in some cases very substantial -which the average interested member of the public looking on the Council website would not know about. So if I was interested in, say, Mark Dowd's claim and looked on the Sefton website I would come away with the impression that his total payment was circa £10k. I reality it is much closer to £60k. It would seem sensible that all the claims were published in one place so a member of the public seek to understand his/her councillors allowances does not have to become a private detective. This transparency is long over due. The same thought has occurred to the Labour Leader of Wirral Council.

Of course if it is to work there has to be some standardisation of accounting systems. Firstly all councillors payments must be published as soon as practically possible. That may not always be the case. Several months after the year end there are still no sign of the Merseyside Transport Authorities (or what ever it is now called) information. It would be strange if that information was not already prepared. Equally if the public is to compare like with like then we require some standardisation. The public have been most interested in expenses claims. Now if a body has an account with-say-a taxi firm and does not allocate to individual councillors the amount spent on that account or say a booking of a hotel or flight, then the public could get a very false impression. My colleague Fred Weavers occasioned some press comment for his travel expenses-all of which were perfectly proper. I do wonder if the public knew the full extent of expenditure incurred by other whether they might have taken a different attitude.

I asked the Leader a second question last night; 'would he use his best endeavours to ensure that all allowances paid to councillors have been subjected to review by an independent re numeration panel?'

Shock, horror, you don't mean that there some council bodies where the member make up their own allowances regime like the MPs? Surely not.