First, read this Freedom of Information request to Wirral Council:
…..Here’s how the Don Latham, “local government consultancy” worked:
To set a new (i.e. increased) allowance rate for councillors, Wirral leader Steve Foulkes operated an Independent Remuneration Panel, back in 2002 – but it was anything but ‘independent’.
The structure was calculated, questionable and shamelessly self-serving….
The then Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions advised that under the Local Government Act (2000), councils appoint a panel to decide a “fair rate” for councillors’ allowances. The panel members must be ‘truly independent and picked to represent the diversity of the local community‘. Local Authorities may have wished to ask particular stakeholders, e.g. the voluntary sector or the local business community.
The panel for this period was made up of the then Bishop of Birkenhead, David Urquhart (had lived and served on the Wirral for the previous 2 years); Pauline Brown (Business Adviser for British Printing Industries…based in Salford); Nunzia Bertali (the Italian Consul). Gerry Hare, works director at Unilever (ah, at last, someone with a local connection), but what’s this? he was part of the North West business leadership team based in Warrington……. and finally, Don Latham, a former Council Chief Executive, but now a journeyman private ‘local government consultant’ but only charging £2,000 a time for his services – (this was eleven years ago remember). Don also travelled around (and still does to this day), doing a spot of honest toil on the remuneration panels of Exeter City, Hertfordshire and Wiltshire Health Authority at the same time – nice little earners.
OK, the panel didn’t exactly “represent the diversity of the local community”, but why were there questions over the panel’s independence? Because the levels of pay of the panel were decided by ‘The Local Democracy Working Party’.
Who were they? Steve Foulkes; George Davies; shameless, unapologetic, inveterate liar (see here, here, here, here, here, and here) Phil Davies; Jeff Green; John Hale; Stuart Kelly; Hugh Lloyd and Pat Williams – all councillors who stood to gain from a good level of allowances. In fact, this completely circular arrangement ensured that the more of our cash these councillors paid to the panel, the more they themselves stood to gain.
And so it came to pass ~ on top of his basic allowance increase, Steve Foulkes creamed a 36% rise in his Special Responsibility Allowance at the time.
On top of his basic allowance increase, The Leader of the Opposition (I don’t know whether this was Jeff Green or not in 2002/3) got himself a bumper 30.5% rise…
The rest of the councillors, all 64 of them, were handed a 16% rise.
Since then, all councillors have ‘generously foregone’ a small rise in their allowance – but they could afford to do that couldn’t they? having already been in receipt of their inflation busting hike in 2002…
Not bad then, and compares very favourably with the 3% rise that the council workforce struggled to prise from the employer at the time… it seems there was one rule for a lucky few, but a starkly different one for the majority…..
And even today, as this Wirral Globe article strongly suggests, the workforce continue to be placed under serious threat – but there are no stated plans to reduce either the number of councillors or the obscene level of personal allowances they collect.
In fact an effort to put the brakes on councillor greed was tabled by a councillor who recently quit his party to become independent, but this was unceremoniously thrown out when councillors, usually at each other’s throats, but with their backs against the wall and pound signs in their eyes, joined forces in a rare moment of cross party unity.
Fast forward to October 2019 and Nunzia Bertali, mentioned above, has joined her Independent Remuneration Panel colleague David Urquhart with the awarding of Freedom of the Borough of Wirral.