Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rate for the job.

This blog hasn't been receiving offensive comments for a while now. Perhaps my posts have not been sufficiently irritating - or the irritated have moved on to more palatable fare. Anyway, I'm probably asking for it with this post. My question is "What's a politician worth?"

Reason I ask this question is that a non-Board member of Powys County Council has taken umbrage at my expressed opinion that the salary of £11,500-ish for a backbencher is on the generous side. This particular Councillor probably works several days per week, as do some others, representing the Council on various other bodies. I can see that on the basis of hours worked by some individual councillors, its possible to make out a case for an increased salary. But I don't think this is the point.

Serving as a Councillor, an Assembly Member, an MP, or an MEP is not as other jobs. There is an element of public service involved. There is no clearly defined job or performance measurement. If the salary is going to be looked on in the same way as other jobs, should not the discipline involved in other jobs also apply, particularly productivity and performance targets. The only performance assessment that is carried out is at elections, which is often based on many factors other than performance.

Example Questions.

How can it be that when a chunk of an MP's workload is transferred through devolution, there is no reduction in salary - or more realistically, no increase in the area represented? Can't imagine that happening in any other job.

How can it be that since County Councillors are now being paid a realistic salary, there is not a review on how many of them there should be? For example, does Powys really need over 70 Councillors, now that each of them is paid a decent and pensionable salary.

How can it be that any politicians who are paid on a full-time basis should be able to hold down another job? I support the concept of outside interests for politicians - but if the pay is full-time, should not the commitment be as well?

And that's before we get onto the super-sensitive issue of 'allowances'. Now its probably a bit too controversial for me to take a public position on this, but I can ask the questions. And before anyone casts the 'Crewe and Nantwich' stone in my direction, I accept that I own a few acres, which may influence the way I look at things (but no-one could ever call me a 'toff'). It would be interesting to hear what others think about all this.


Robert said...

Not long ago I argued with an MP who said she worked seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, in which I answered if it was real work you would not be able to work those days and those days. I then asked why is it when you have a surgery it's from 9am until 12 am and your off no matter how many people are waiting, why is it always a Saturday morning when most people are working.

The fact is MP's AM and all the others do not work 7 days a week without a break.

Glyn Davies said...

Robert - the relevent point is that some MPs work very hard indeed, while others don't - and the same applies to Assembly Members and Councillors. It is very difficult to decide on what is an appropriate rate for the job. There is also the issue of whether some of the work that keeps some politicians very busy, merit being done at all.

Sarah Millington said...

Glyn - Just to clear up a point you appear to of mistakenly made earlier "the salary of £11,500-ish" is incorrect it is actually £11,468.00 and that is before tax and national insurance, so actually it's not £11,500 ish or anywhere near by the time you've paid ni and tax.

I think given that a basic salary for an office adminstrator is somewhere around £12,000- £15,000 these days £11,468 seems justifiable for someone like myself who intends to work very hard, all the time not sometimes, all the time, for someone who has committed themselves to working with local charities, working with/for local people in order to improve services and the quality of life for people in Powys, in particular the 405 people who put their trust and faith in me at the election.

One final point I think worth mentioning I've just given up my full time job in order to be able to concentrate on repaying that faith and being someone people can trust, someone people can come to with issues. I think you need to focus on what you were paid and claimed whilst a member of the assembly and would you of turned down the generous 8.3% pay rise awarded to assembly members?

Not everyone that is privileged enough to be a County Councillor etc is there to ride the gravy train.

Glyn Davies said...

anons - I have rejected two comments because they used profanity in a play on the name of Montgomeryshire's MP, as thay sought to highlight his non Paliamentary work. This blog does not allow profanity. Sorry about that.

Sarah - £11,468 seems quite close to £11,500 ish to me. And of course its a very poor salary for anyone who intends to work as a full-time Councillor. But not all Councillors will work full-time, which is why any opinion is subjective. And in general, I don't think many people who stand for public office on our Councils think of it as being a gravy train. Not sure where you got that from.

I also think its unwise to personalise this sort of issue. But if I were a Councillor, I would take whatever salary was offered, as I expect everyone else to - but it doesn't preclude an opinion on the appropriateness of its level. As it happens, I work about 50 hours a week at present for no salary at all - because I choose to. I suppose it could lead to a salaried Parlimentary position, but I'm happy to do it anyway.

Sarah Millington said...

Glyn - I got the 'gravy train comment' because there are people within the electorate who think the 'allowances/expenses' scheme etc is something of a mickey take, something of a gravy train.

What it means is getting something for nothing, doing a lot of nothing for a lot of money.

Your original comment was "What's a politician worth?", do you think they are worth an 8.3% pay rise, particularly given that 8.3% is quite obviously way over and above the level of inflation?

Glyn Davies said...

Sarah - I've not heard the gravy train accusation made much in respect of councillors. Mostly, its been MEPs who have been the target. But since the 'Conway Affair' and the mishandled 8.3% issue, its been MPs and AMs who have bourne the brunt of it - and rightly so.

The recent AMs increase was quite a complex matter, and the worst aspect of it has been largely ignored. I would have supported the increase, which was related to a new level of responsibility, because I would have had no reasonable ground to oppose it. AMs are paid a percentage of an MP's salary, and when the comparative responsibilities changed under the 2006 Government of Wales Act, the salary increase was inevitable. However, I do think it should have been phased in, as some of the Plaid Members decided to do voluntarily. What I would have opposed was the massive new 'responsibility' allowances that have been introduced for several positions in the Assembly, something that has been hardly commented on.

If you refer to my original post, one of my 'Questions' related to the consequences for MPs of a transfer of power to the Assembly. In 1997, a big chunk of workload was devolved, and from last May, the power to create primary legislation was also devolved - with no impact whatsoever on the salary or number of MPs. This seems to me a legitimate subject for debate.

Jeff Jones said...

As someone who spent 25 years as a councillor including 9 as the Leader of one of the 22 authorities I'm always amazed by the debate regarding councillors allowances. When I was first elected to Mid Glamorgan CC in 1981 I was paid an attendance allowance for every meeting I attended.This was deducted by my employer from my salary if the meeting involved any leave of absence. The simple fact is that some councillors work hard and others don't and it can depend on the type of ward you represent. I'm often amazed when I read the statistical evidence taken from councillor's diaries in reports on remuneration which suggests that some spend every waking hour on council work. In Bridgend unknown to the councillors I used to have a breakdown every year on the number of constituents complaints brought in and to which departments. I used this as a snap shot to see where we were going wrong in the eyes of the voters. In the last year I was Leader 20 out of the 54 councillors didn't even bring in any complaints from their local ward.After reading Sarah Millington's comment that she had decided to give up work I decided to look at Powys County Council's website to look at its meetings calendar. I was surprised to see that the Executive Board did not meet between January and April this year . Even the full Council only met 10 times between January 2007 and March 2008. It was also surprising to see only one scrutiny committee for the whole council. The fact that there are so many uncontested seats in areas such as Powys and that all the political parties found difficult in attracting people to stand in this year's elections suggests that remuneration isn't the problem. The real reason that people don't stand is because local government has so few powers. To make matters worse councillors of all political persuasions and none will find that the next few years will probably be the most difficult faced by local government since reorganistion. Tight financial settlements will be the order of the day and service cutbacks will dominate council decisionmaking. Powys had a difficult settlement this year next year could be worse with no floor because of the the way in which Ynys Mon cried wolf and then introduced one of the lowest council tax increase in Wales.

Glyn Davies said...

Jeff - I also served for a long period as a councillor, and led the Council for 3 years - and was paid an allowance of £16 per day. Unlike you, it was not deducted from my salary, because I as self-employed. In fact, I had to employ an extra person to cover for me, which cost me a lot more than my allowance. Actually, for much of the time, some of us (including me)didn't claim the allowance at all, considering our work to be public service - and at that time I was under a lot of financial pressure. But that's how things were in the 1980s.

I very much agree with you about the powers of local authorities. The level of direction and ring fencing by the National Assembly is excessive.

Council budgets are going to be tougher than for a decade over the next year or so, principally because the National Assembly will not have the money - and when serious pruningf has to take place, where do you think the shears will do their snipping.

Anonymous said...

what is it worth to attract a level of councillor who is up to date in the macro as well as micro issues of his patch?
I am still of the opinion that these posts should be looked in the same way as you would a job.
Job description, spec no of hours to be worked, etc.
The worth of a politician is their commitment and skill in getting the outcomes and outputs needed to give good services and value.
I would happily pay more for that.
What I am not happy paying for are old codgers who are well passed their sell by date and sleep their way through council and parliamentary business, or who are gallivanting and making a name for themselves at the expense of their constituents

Sarah Millington said...

Just to make a quick comment re Jeff Jones assumption that the diary of Powys County Council is not as busy as perhaps it could be. My diary as a councillor is filling up very quickly with committee meetings, sub committee meetings, local charity volunteer work, local outside groups such as local steering groups, pact meetings etc, these are just a few things that my diary is filling up quite quickly with. This is of course all outside of meeting with local residents and helping with any issues they may have. Oh and school governor meetings whilst I think about it. I'm sure having been a councillor for 25 years and no doubt an excellent committed councillor Jeff will appreciate how busy council life can be if you get involved with all aspects of your ward, your town, your county. I do find the assumption that the councils diary is not as busy as it could be a little upsetting, I've only been in my post as councillor for 18 days and I've worked hard those 18 days and will of course work hard for the next 4 years, I've not doubt my diary will get even fuller as time goes by and that's no bad thing. Jeff if you’re in any doubt over how busy a councillor should be or rather isn't please let me know and I'll happily let you have a quick peek at my diary. If it'll clear up any confusion I'll also see if I can get you a copy of the many different committees the authority has including would you believe more than one scrutiny committee.