Before today’s events, I was going to report on the row at last night’s meeting of the Labour group at Tower Hamlets council.
In June, I wrote this post. Back then, strangely, new council leader Helal Abbas was seen as the favourite to become the Labour candidate for mayor. As a result, Lutfur Rahman and his chief lieutenant Cllr Marc Francis lobbed him and colleagues a hand grenade. They proposed a motion to their colleagues that the new mayor’s salary should be capped at about £30,000 a year. The pair said that would be a sign to voters that politicians (unlike Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales, who bags a salary of £81,000) were doing their bit for the recession.
For ease of reference, here’s the wording of that motion:
As you will have seen from the agenda for Monday’s Labour Group meeting, i am bringing a motion introducing term limits on any Labour directly-elected Mayor and reducing the Special Responsibility Allowance for that post and other Cabinet positions.
This motion is itself fairly self-explanatory, but i will explain my reasoning in a little more detail on Monday. I would obviously welcome your support for this motion, so please don’t hesitate to let me know if you any queries before then.
Motion – Directly-Elected Mayor
Proposed: Cllr Lutfur Rahman
Seconded: Cllr Marc Francis
This Labour Group notes:
- The referendum result in support of a Directly-Elected Mayor and the election for this position will be held on 21st October;
- That in other local authorities the introduction of an Executive Mayor in place of the Council Leader has resulted in an increase in the Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) for that position;
- That, as well as an Executive Mayor, Newham has 16 Cabinet Members and Mayoral Advisers, each in receipt of an SRA;
- That some directly-elected Mayors are now beginning their third consecutive Term of Office;
- The new Conservative / Lib Dem Coalition Government is expected to require around £10 million in “in-year” cuts from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, as well as significant additional savings thereafter.
This Labour Group believes:
- That it is important for the Labour Party and its elected representatives to take on the burden of any necessary savings before considering imposing cuts in frontline services;
- A Mayor, Deputy Mayor and eight Cabinet members is a sufficient Executive body for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets;
- George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had it right in establishing the convention of a two-term limit for the President of the United States, now enshrined in law by the 22nd Amendment.
This Labour Group therefore resolves:
- To peg the SRA of the Directly-Elected Mayor for 2010/11 and 2011/12 at the current level of the SRA to the Council Leader less 5 per cent;
- To peg the SRA for the Deputy Mayor for 2010/11 and 2011/12 at the current level of the SRA to the Deputy Leader less 5 per cent;
- To peg the SRA for Cabinet Members for 2010/11 and 2011/12 at the current level of the SRA to Cabinet Members less 5 per cent;
- To require that the Mayor appoint no more than one Deputy Mayor and eight Cabinet Members to serve on the Executive;
- That no Labour Mayor should seek a 3rd Term of Office.
The motion was rejected.
At the meeting of the full council last Wednesday, politicians had another attempt to agree pay. What about £65,000, a cross-party group suggested? Er, no. Labour councillors rejected that as well.
So, last night, when it seemed certain that Lutfur would be mayor, they had another go. Incredibly, by a majority of 20 to 18, Labour’s supposedly cost-conscious public servants voted to recommend a salary of £75,000. Now, who would be so keen to see such massive pay inflation? According to one of Lutfur’s supporters, it was, er, Lutfur’s new club of supporters. They said a pay package well below that of Newham and of Hackney would “reduce the dignity” of the Tower Hamlets office.
Whereas Marc Francis showed consistency and voted against the proposal, Lutfur abstained.
Abbas, meanwhile, voted against. So, we now know one thing, at least: Abbas will not accept a £75k salary if elected on October 21.