Thursday, 17 February 2011
Next week (Tuesday 22/2/11), the leader of Tameside Council, Kieran Quinn (pictured), will announce this year`s budget and the cuts that the council are proposing to make to public services. Already, it has been revealed in the local press that libraries and culture could be hit hard by savage cuts. The council have already announced that they are proposing to cut the culture budget by more than £3.36 million or (40%) of the total budget. Museum and countryside centres could be closed or sold off. Libraries are also facing budget cuts of £0.9 million which could see branch libraries closed and staff replaced by volunteers.
Other proposals involve cutting concessionary bus passes for children;cutting the number of lollipop ladies; reducing the number of pensioners' luncheon clubs; reviewing community centres and moving activities to schools and cutting the budget for road repairs.
Of course, over the years, while many council employees have seen their wages cut and their jobs made redundant, quite the reverse seems to have occurred when you look at the pay and allowances of the top dogs and councillors who run many of these councils. According to recent press reports, thousands of local councillors have seen their allowances soar in the last five years. Over the same period, Town Hall payouts have risen by up to 150% to a total cost of more than £200 million. Figures taken from local authority accounts also show that a substantial number of council leaders such as Richard Leese, of Manchester City council, claim more than £50,000 a year in allowances. The average councillor's allowance can now be more than £20,000 a year.
In Tameside, over £1 million a year is spent by the tax-payer on councillor's expenses and allowances. Councillors`s are even entitled to claim a £250 Broadband Allowance. Ten of the top executive officers who work for Tameside Council, earn more than £100,000 a year. The Chief Executive of the council, Steven Pleasant, tops the list with a salary of £166,929 which is over £24,000 more than the Prime Minister receives. Research undertaken by the Tax Payers' Alliance in 2007, revealed that Tameside councillor`s had the 9th highest average allowance per councillor in the country.
Last May (2010), the council enlarged its Labour cabinet system to include 12 cabinet members and 9 assistant executive members. Almost half of the Labour group of 47 members are now in paid cabinet posts with fancy titles claiming in excess of over £30,000 a year. The cost of running this cabinet system in Tameside has been steadily increasing since 2003 when £232,180 was paid out in special responsibility allowances. In 2010/11, the cost had increased to £326,859.
We should not forget that not so long ago, being a councillor was a voluntary job. Local councillors were not paid until the 1970s. Expenses for attending meetings were introduced by the Heath government in 1972 and in 1995, the Tory government under John Major, allowed council`s to set up their own payment schemes for councillors allowances. In 2003, councillors were given another perk when they were given membership of the pension scheme for local government workers. The effect of these reforms has been to create full-time well paid fuctionaries and a culture of jobs for the boys.
At Tameside Council`s meeting on Tuesday, don't expect the leader of the council, Kieran Quinn,(his wife Susan is also a Tameside councillor) to announce in his budget speech that they will be cutting councillors allowances and expenses and the wages of the top executives in order to save public money. It is more than likely that it will be the librarian and lollipop lady who are facing the chop. While Richard Leese at Manchester City Council claims his £52,000 a year allowances, the council has just announced that it will be closing all its public toilets bar the one on Mount Street, which the public will now have to pay to use because the council says it has got no money. Perhaps if we got rid of some of these mendicants (politicians), more money could be spent on front line services.