Council budget review: Cabinet members allowances defended

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Cabinet members at Peterborough City Council took it in turns to defend the money they receive after being asked to give up some of their allowances.

A motion at the last full council meeting on December 17 by Labour and Cooperative Councillor Ed Murphy called on cabinet members to give up their Special Responsibility Allowances in the final quarter of the financial year which would bring the total down to £5,600 over the 12 months.

Cllr Murphy said: “In view of the difficult budget circumstances we have that would make a terrific contribution. We are also asking the leader to have a look at the number that receive the Special Responsibility Allowance.

“I really do think when we are asking the vulnerable to take cuts we should do something.”

In response, Conservative members of the cabinet quickly defended the money they receive.

Cllr David Seaton, cabinet member for resources, described the motion as “political showboating.”

He added: “Do we really want to attract the best people to be councillors? This motion tells young people if you get into the cabinet and have to take unpaid time off from your job, ‘tough luck’.”

Cllr Gavin Elsey, cabinet member for street scene, waste management and communications, said: “My colleagues and I have this year dedicated nine whole days for the budget. I dedicate a minimum of 20 hours a week, normally much more.

“I can categorically assure you we would earn far more if we dedicated this same amount of time to our careers and businesses.”

Cllr Nigel North, cabinet member for communities and environment capital, said he believed following budget meetings the money he was earning was close to the minimum wage.

He added: “Would Cllr Murphy like me to work for below the minimum working wage? It’s nonsense.”

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “When my team think of me badly or report to colleagues or the leader that I’m doing a bad job, then I expect to be removed from that job.

“And thankfully, I think most people I have a close working relationship with think I do a quite good job.”

Council leader Cllr Marco Cereste said: “It’s ridiculous in my opinion to criticise cabinet members for what they do then expect them to take a pay cut.

“They have families, they give up their employment. It’s absolutely unreasonable to expect them to work for less than the minimum wage when we think we should be paying a living wage.

“By 12am today I would have done 42 hours this week, then they say I have to voluntaryly give up 25 per cent of my £21,000.

“Let’s not listen to this nonsense, it’s about trying to embarrass us.”

Deputy leader Cllr John Holdich said he was against the motion as an all-party panel had already agreed to review it.

He claimed the motion was “premature.”