Last night a Liberal Democrat challenge gave the Conservatives an opportunity to rethink their decision to pay £6,095 a year to each of six councillors acting as Directors on Council owned companies. The Lib Dems are disappointed but not surprised that Tory party loyalty won out as all bar one Conservative voted to use council money to pay their colleagues more.
The Liberal Democrats do not think councillors should be paid for these Non Executive Director roles. Other councils have set up private companies to provide similar services and none of the examples given at the meeting showed those councillors being paid as directors.
Cllr Lindsay Ferris, Twyford ward, said “There was no process for this decision to pay councillors more; it was made on a whim by Conservatives. They claimed at the meeting they are underappreciated and undervalued. I think it’s the residents of Wokingham being undervalued when their council tax is spent in this way. At the meeting the Tories said £36,000 was of little account and they easily found it to pay themselves more. Strange they can’t find money so easily to pay for services residents actually want.”
Cllr Prue Bray leader of the Lib Dems said, “As with the bins, the Tories have introduced this with no consultation, no process and an apparent disregard for their residents. These are tough economic times and everyone is feeling the pinch. Councillors should be working hard for their residents and not whinging about being underpaid.”
The Lib Dems, in making this challenge to the Executive’s decision, have managed to get the Tories to agree to some sensible changes. The meeting recommended a review of the process used to appoint councillors as directors and that an independent body should look at how much they are paid.
The Lib Dems believe it is important to remember the council is spending tax payer’s money. So we will continue to challenge the Tories and hold them to account when they are clearly not acting in the best interests of Wokingham’s council tax payers.
For reference: Benchmarking of remuneration to Non Executive Directors of Local Authority Trading Companies.
||Trading Company Name
Officer Non- Executives on Board?
|Payment to Member Non-Executive Directors?
|Essex County Council
|Woking Borough Council
||Yes – Officers and Members
Metropolitan Borough Council
||Yes – two Councillors and one Officer
|Kirklees Metropolitan Council
||Kirklees Metropolitan Development Company
||Yes – the directors are all Councillors
|Barnet Borough Council
||Barnet Group Ltd
Last night the Conservatives decided to pay Wokingham Borough Councillors who are Non Executive Directors on the three council owned companies an extra £6095 a year each. This was despite the Lib Dems asking them not to make this decision and at the very least bring it to a full Council Meeting so that a more democratic and representative decision could be made.
Yet the Conservatives refused to take this opportunity, preferring to vote through this pay increase. Cllr Tom McCann, Loddon ward, said “The decision has been taken by a tiny minority of councillors; this money could be used to fund services that have been cut like public toilets or grass cutting. These Tory councillors appear to value themselves more than public services.
The Lib Dems think it is a disgrace that Conservatives are putting their own pay first. We asked the Executive not to make this decision and were ignored. We will challenge their decision and want to see it overturned.”
The full question was:
“According to Item 51.00 Approval of Directors Remuneration all councillors appointed as non Executive directors of the council’s trading companies are to receive payment of £6095 a year in future. These non executive directors are appointed via TESC, a sub committee of the Executive, and the decision to pay them is also being taken by the Executive. No formal process exists for nominating and selecting councillors as non executive directors. All other appointments to outside bodies and remunerated representative roles are made by full council. Full council also votes on all other aspects of remuneration for councillors. Remuneration for this year was agreed by Council on 19th July, following the report of the Independent Remuneration Panel. No mention was made of any payments to councillors who are directors of companies at that meeting, which was only a week ago.
“Why are the normal processes for appointments and remuneration not being followed in the case of councillors appointed as directors of council-owned limited companies?”
Last night Lib Dem councillors spoke in support of the petition calling for public toilets to be reinstated in Woodley. They urged the Conservatives to listen as in January the Conservatives dismissed a Lib Dem proposal to reinstate public toilets in the Borough.
Lib Dems repeated their arguments for getting proper public toilets back into the Borough. The Local loo scheme was shown to be an unworkable half measure and it seems that finally the penny may have dropped as the Conservatives are beginning to realise that this is what residents want.
Lib Dem Cllr Beth Rowland, South Lake ward, said “This is a step in the right direction for residents and we welcome the review. But we are disappointed that there is no definite commitment for action to follow. At the Council meeting the Conservatives suggested improving the signs for the Local Loos and we would be disappointed if that is all they plan do.
Woodley Town council has agreed to cover the maintenance of a continental style loo if money from recent developments in Woodley would be used fund a public toilet. This situation cannot go on and the local Lib Dem Councillors will continue to push for what residents want – the reinstatement of public toilets.”