This article first appeared on ConservativeHome.
Over the past week politics in Leicester has been overwhelmed by reaction to the proposals from the euphemistically named independent remuneration panel on reporting on councillor’s pay, and for the ﬁrst time that of the City Mayor.
The biggest and almost wholly negative reaction came to the proposal the City Mayor should receive a £100,000 salary (80% increase) and the Deputy Mayor getting £75,000 (a 100% increase on the pay of the previous leader and deputy leader of the council.)
This mayor very publicly sacked the Chief Executive to make senior management savings, and live on BBC television rejected the idea that any of the saving should end up being diverted to his own salary.
The report on pay came out only a week after the City Mayor and his Deputy launched the public consultation on £30m of ﬁnancial savings and which services should be cut; the cost of politicians was not included as a savings option. It is anticipated at least 1,000 staff redundancies will take place.
It was supposed to have an ofﬁcial media launch but details were printed by the Leicester Mercury on the morning of the brieﬁng.
So how did this independent panel get it so badly wrong?
I am still waiting for answers from the Council about the process. How was the “independent” panel constituted? What were it’s terms of reference? What guidance had it received, or almost as importantly not received, in carrying out it’s work.
What is certain is this panel was constituted after the election of Sir Peter Soulsby without the traditional cross party representation.
Most of those on the panel were closely associated with the City Mayor and each other, and much of the evidence reviewed by the panel came directly from the City Mayor.
Three of the four panel members have links to De Montfort University, and include the Vice Chancellor who also chairs the Culture Partnership Board for the Council. Much of DMU’s expansion and development proposals can only take place with the mayors’ approval. At the launch of it’s Square Mile project the VC is pictured with the City Mayor, his Deputy and an Assistant Mayor. The independent panel is chaired by the Chief Executive of the Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce who’s ofﬁce is on the DMU Campus. Another panel member is a Governor of DMU.
Moving on from the debacle last week, Sir Peter very publicly abandoned his independent panel in the face of public outrage.
So where will he go now?
Well he is reported in the Leicester Mercury to be asking the Ofﬁce of Manpower Economics (OME),The panel that recommends the salaries of top judges, senior civil servants and Army top brass. To build any conﬁdence with the public it is important that there is absolute transparency about the terms of reference right from the start. Even so it could cost the equivalent of a salary for a worker at the Council to conduct this review.
It seems very likely that a body that deals with highly paid public ofﬁcials is likely to recommend a highly paid salary in this case. It could also cost the equivalent of a salary for a worker at the Council to conduct this review.
All the way through the farcical move to the mayoral system and then the election campaign itself Sir Peter Soulsby argued that an elected mayor can show strong leadership. However on the matter of his pay Sir Peter is desperate to not let anyone know how much he is worth.
The public have been invited to make their views clear. I would encourage people to, but not by writing an email. Instead complete the Council’s budget consultation. If people in Leicester think that services are more important than politicians pay they can say so. They will have to add a comment, there is no easy option to tick for that.