The Plastic Hippo

July 21, 2010

Pay and display

Filed under: Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 6:09 pm

Walsall councillors do a wonderful job, of that there can be no question. As they give their time and expertise for the general good of the borough, their philanthropy knows no bounds when it comes to telling us what is good for us. The elected members who serve as cabinet portfolio holders are particularly charitable and are clearly in it only for love. Having announced further cuts of £7.7million resulting in a record breaking £22million worth of reductions to vital services, their reward will obviously be in heaven. Or will it…?

The local rag is kicking up a fuss about “allowances” awarded to councillors and has published the figures. It seems that our leader, Mike Bird trousered £29,390 and 37 pence last year. This is obviously small beer when compared to the massive budget deficit and such benign and sagacious leadership is worth every penny. Indeed, Iron Mike has come out fighting and said that he is worth more than that figure. It is worth considering the words he is alleged to have used in defending his “allowance”.

“I am worth twice that. If anyone in private industry was working the hours I do overseeing a budget of £750million they would be earning in the region of £100,000 per year.”

Well, anyone working in private industry who was responsible for colossal waste, woeful accountancy, overspends, mismanagement and huge payouts to wrongly dismissed employees would, in the real world, be sacked. Instead of asking for a pay rise, Councillor Bird may be better advised to consult with the Job Centre, a venue popular with many of his former employees.

Bird is not alone on the gravy train. Former mayor John O`Hare took home £31,919 for his mainly ceremonial role. That’s a lot of booze and fags but he did a lot for charity. Current mayor Gary Clarke will need to open a lot of garden fêtes if he hopes to match the generous allowance awarded when he was chairman of Centro. Husband and wife team Adrian and Rachel Andrew, the Richard and Judy of the council chamber, received £18,680-40 each. That is not enough to take care of the babysitter during the long hours they spend in meetings to decide the closure of schools because they have both only managed to attend 75% of cabinet meetings. Between them, the three councillors for Pheasey Park Farm, Bird, Adrian Andrew and Christopher Towe were awarded a grand total of nearly £67,000 and the total for all councillor allowances came to almost £850,000.

Cabinet members, opposition group leaders and the chairs of various committees are all rewarded with allowances over and above the basic £10,377 paid to all councillors because of the additional responsibility their position brings and Walsall can boast of one the highest paid Chief Executives in the country. It seems odd that our brightest and best did not spot the black hole of deficit approaching and curious too that the only solution to insolvency is to close things and set “targets” for income from parking tickets. They display their nobility and we pay through the nose.

As the coalition government makes even deeper cuts, the silence coming from cabinet is deafening, particularly over the BSF shambles. Still, the 18 grand will do nicely for taking the family on holiday as the rest of us form a queue at the soup kitchen. Our council clearly understands the concept of value for money, especially when motivated by self-interest and there are some that would happily pay Mike Bird £100,000, but only if he promised to go away.


  1. So the Hippo has joined the ranks of the Express & Star, the Daily Mail and the Telegraph in bashing all politicians for the sake of it.

    Whatever your political colour, whatever you think about the current Walsall leadership, accusing councillors of ‘trousering’ their modest allowances and being on some sort of ‘gravy train’ is ridiculous.

    The basic £10k councillor ‘allowance’ seems completely reasonable and even Walsall Council leader’s £30k is only £6k above the national average wage.

    Many Walsall councillors across all parties work hard, prepare for and attend council meetings and work behind the scenes as they go about their ward work in the community. Of course Walsall has councillors who don’t pull their weight, who play the quango expenses game but that is the same in any local authority and in any workplace, we all know that. If electors don’t like it – those individuals can be voted out.

    Many other community minded Walsall folks devote hours of their time towards the public good for free. But if we didn’t pay our elected representatives then what? Back to Victorian times where only the rich who can afford the time to hold office get elected to our democratic institutions? How representative would that be?

    The fresh lime waters of Hatherton lake must be going stale perhaps even stagnating. Who would have guessed that the pink water buffalo is actually wallowing in the deep blue soup dragon’s big society – where all public service should be volunteered for free?

    Time expired… and barcode cancelled.

    Comment by dinkey — July 21, 2010 @ 11:41 pm | Reply

  2. I have some sympathy with dinkey’s comment, reasonable expenses are entirely appropriate for competent and hard-working councillors,and there are many in Walsall who make a sincere effort to represent and help their constituents.

    However it seems that Walsall Councillors outside the inner sanctum of the cabinet have no real influence on policy and that both Labour and LibDem councillors in Walsall are completely ignored on matters of real import. Scrutiny does not work as it has no teeth in Walsall.

    Therefore one has to question whether (a) Walsall is a democracy at all and (b) if most Councillors are blocked from influencing major policy matters, is there any point in having them and therefore paying them?

    Personally I would not pay Mike Bird a fiver unless it was his one-way bus fare to leave the Metropolitan Borough of Walsall forever. Most of the rest I can live with…


    Comment by The Walsall Anarchist — July 22, 2010 @ 5:31 am | Reply

  3. There was a time when councillors were volunteers and did it for free. That was seen as disqualifying the poor so allowances were brought in. £30,000 p.a seems a lot of money to me. If they don’t like what they get paid (and pensioned) they can always let some one else do it. The allowance should be reduced by the same percentage as non-attended meetings. Trousering seems quite a good word to me.

    Comment by Observer — July 22, 2010 @ 6:48 am | Reply

  4. It is worth remembering that the recent MPs’ expenses scandal had its origins in the political establishment’s belief, some years back, that the public would not tolerate a rise in MPs’ salaries and so an elaborate scheme for claiming expenses was devised to compensate. We would be advised to learn that lesson before we start down a similar path at a local level which could encourage further abuse and corruption.

    Walsall Anarchist certainly makes some valid observations about the abysmal state of local democracy and scrutiny – we have Labour’s Local Government Act 2000 to thank for that disaster.

    Comment by Mark — July 22, 2010 @ 10:39 am | Reply

  5. Let’s not forget that many of our noble councillors have other jobs and businesses as well so the allowances are on top of that.
    Captain Clueless thinks he works hard, does he?
    He earned the eqivalent of a reasonable full-time wage for a part-time job; if he thinks he’s working too hard he needs to learn to delegate or manage his time better.

    Also, we keep hearing that your need to pay top wages to attract top talent, but I can’t see what our chief exec has done so far for his money.

    As for the Mayor, well it’s just plain daft giving the office-holder extra money when all they do is take it in turn to do the ‘job’. That money should pay for the limos and equerries and not to go to the Mayor at all.

    Comment by martin — July 22, 2010 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

  6. […] Plastic Hippo has also turned his scrutiny to this remarkable situation, and his similarly incredulous excoriation was published yesterday. Yet again, he hits the nail on the head. In the private sector, many of these characters would be […]

    Pingback by Bumbledom humbug « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog — July 22, 2010 @ 1:16 pm | Reply

  7. I’ll go along with some of dinkey’s comments too: I have no problem with an allowance for being a councillor and reasonable expenses, but claims of being a ‘bargain’ and worth over 100k are ridiculous.

    Comment by stymaster — July 22, 2010 @ 4:44 pm | Reply

  8. My objection isn’t the allowance, but the attitude of the under performing leader and cabinet, who continually bang on about social care ‘entitlement’ and hard times, whilst telling us how lucky we are to have them.

    Best wishes


    Comment by BrownhillsBob — July 28, 2010 @ 10:07 am | Reply

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