Mayoral pay rise: Just how independent is the Pay Panel?

Many of us have been shocked by the obscene pay rises proposed for the City Mayor and other councillors, and rightly so. Sir Peter Soulsby, the City Mayor, has said that these are only recommendations made by the independent Remuneration panel. But just now independent is it? To answer this we ask Roman Scuplak.

Roman was Leader of the Conservative Group on the Council from 1992 to 2007 and Member of the Council's Remuneration Panel until March 2011 when he resigned because of the former Panel's proposal to increase pay of the incoming Mayor to £65,000, substantially above the pay received by the then Council Leader.

"The panel is always referred to as the Independent Panel on Members' Allowances, but it is only "independent" in the sense that those sitting on the panel are neither councillors themselves, nor Council employees. In all other respects they are not independent. That is because:

1. The composition of the panel is determined by councillors themselves.

2. Though they are not councillors nor Council employees, they are and always have been people with close links to councillors. They have always either been ex-councillors or people who regularly sit with councillors on numerous other bodies. The only exception to this over fifteen years was when for three years the Conservative Group nominated John Loke, Labour Party member and District Secretary of the Engineering Union, in order to provide a truly independent, non-Council orientated opinion and someone who was unlikely to support high councillors' allowances.

3. In coming to its conclusions, the panel is required to address the specific governing structure put to it by the Council and is not allowed to question it.

4. In coming to its conclusions, the panel is required to accept the factual background put to it by councillors as regards the amount of work they do and the amount of time they devote to their duties. They are not allowed to question it, even though every role is self-defining and there is no actual evidence put forward of work or time. They cannot, for instance, question why that amount of work or time is necessary. Anyone without a proper job - and this represents a high proportion of councillors - can make their councillor job full-time if they choose to, just as you can make any other hobby, e.g. stamp collecting, a full-time job if you wish. What is clear, however, is that, (a) though some may choose to spend a lot of time doing it, others spend very little time and (b) there is no way that Leicester needs 54 full-time councillors (San Francisco has a mayor and 11 "supervisors" to run it, not a mayor and 54 councillors and its population is three times that of Leicester; Greater London has an assembly of just 25)."

Fully independent? We don’t think so.