PROTESTORS stood on the steps of Rochdale Town Hall before Wednesday night’s council meeting (14 December) to demonstrate against the 34% rise in councillors’ allowance.As councillors arrived for the meeting, the protesters took up chanting ‘They want 34%, we can’t even pay our rent’ and ‘No ifs, no buts, no public service cuts’. A survey was also handed to councillors by Unite representatives asking if they had asked their local constituents if they believed they deserved a 34-51% pay rise and to justify this with evidence.
Whilst most councillors passed the demonstration by arriving through the front door, Council Leader Richard Farnell was accused of 'snubbing the people' and 'cowardice' after he was spotted avoiding the protest by entering the Town Hall through the back door.Before the Council meeting commenced, Sam O’Brien, of Unison, said:
'If the councillors vote for this then they will prove they are completely out of touch with the people they are supposed to serve. The idea that they could vote for such a huge rise whilst cutting services will strike most people as appalling.
'Council workers are being told that the council have to take tough choices that austerity will be permanently written into our contracts. Why is it an easy choice to increase councillors’ pay but everything else is tough: no wonder 75% of UNISON members recently voted to strike against the proposed cuts.'
A council worker, who wished to remain nameless, said:
'To pass this is immoral and puts council workers at risk of redundancy.
'We’ve had these never-ending cuts; we haven’t had pay rises. Our wages have been frozen since austerity started, even with inflation, so in effect, our pay has gone backwards, but here they are giving 34% to councillors and the free food before each meeting, be it planning or scrutiny.
'I used to work at a neighbouring council, who scrapped this earlier in the year to save money. They should cut councillors to two per ward to save money, but here we still have 60 fat cats who are stuffing their faces with allowances- I’m appalled.'
Robert Mudd said: 'This increase has been based on the average, which is false criteria. It should be based on the median or the modal value to make it more accurate.'
Jeff Slough said: 'The only thing I’d like to ask directly to Mr Farnell is to justify his £1,000 a week for doing a voluntary role. It’s ridiculous. I’ve nothing against legitimate expenses, if the business is within the Rochdale Borough.'