Opinion: ‘Council wrong to agree latest pay rise’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

Peterborough city councillors will be getting an allowance rise.
Peterborough city councillors will be getting an allowance rise.

Peterborough Council, as has been stated many times, is in financial trouble.

Council taxes are on the rise; cuts to vital services are on the way.

Given this, it was obscene that the council should vote itself a pay rise on January 26.

The Labour Group is entirely opposed to this.

It simply is not right that councillors should be rewarding themselves in such a manner, given what we are asking the public to do. We are telling them not only to make do with less, we are asking them to pay more for less.

While the rise in, and of, itself is below the rate of inflation, surely we should be sending the same message to ourselves as we are broadcasting to the wider public?

I am sure the Conservatives will say something along the lines that it’s not a huge sum, and it’s set by an Independent Remuneration Panel, so it’s not decided by us. That’s not the point.

We are either all in it together or we are not. Either we are all living under the same austere conditions, or we are not.

If there is a disparity, it is very damaging.

It creates an impression, and not an unjustified one, that there is one rule for those in government, and those who do the work and pay the taxes to sustain it.

I am astonished that the Conservatives have been so tone-deaf in this instance.

Surely, they must have got the message from ‘Party-gate’ that the problem was not a few bottles of wine consumed on a sunny afternoon.

Rather, it was the fact that most of us were kept from our families and loved ones, particularly those in deep distress, while others completely ignored the rules and carried on as if life was proceeding like it was still 2019.

The result will either be anger or apathy. Anger can be redirected to positive ends, eg activism and momentum for change.

Apathy, however, is a corrosive agent which wears away at democracy.

It implies a grudging acceptance that an elite will always behave in a hypocritical way.

Apathy does not demand better, nor hold power to account, it merely bends.

My experience of this Conservative administration suggests they find being made to answer for their actions an extremely uncomfortable experience.

I believe they relish the idea of apathy taking root, and the rest of us merely accepting whatever it is they desire.

The Labour Group opposed the increase in councillor allowances.

I am not going to accept the rise.

Other members of the group will donate theirs to charity.

Our third sector has done so much before and during the pandemic, it seems appropriate they benefit from any additional cash, no matter how small.

Provided we are elected to office this coming May, one of the Labour Group’s first actions will be to voluntarily reduce Special Responsibility Allowances until the council’s finances are in better shape.

One promise that will be fulfilled from day one of a Labour administration of Peterborough is that we will close the ever-gaping chasm between the people of Peterborough and the councillors who represent them.