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Friday, 19 February 2016

Making Allowances at Brent Council

One thing I didn't mention in yesterday's post on Scrutiny was allowances.  Debates about allowances always somewhat dispirit me as they often lead to accusations of selfishness on the part of the councillors, and I can't help but feel such accusations are sometimes justified.  Indeed one interpretation of the impetus for change in Scrutiny is that Cllr Muhammed Butt feels his political position is weakening following the departure of his key ally Cara Davani, the debacle over parking and his forced retreat on Council Tax, so he wants more allowances to buy people off.  

The weakness of such a view is that the Labour Group rules do not allow Executive members to vote on who is on the Scrutiny Committee.  This is likely to lead to an interesting Labour Group AGM (behind closed doors of course).  The more successful Cllr Butt is in packing the Executive, the less prospect he has of influencing the composition of the Scrutiny Committee, so (if members of the Group think it through rationally) the less likely they are to be bribed by him to support him as Leader.

Allowances are covered in the next Full Council in two different reports.  The expansion of Scrutiny to two committees departs from any previous practice in that members now get allowances simply for being members of a committee.  The first time this happened was through cross party agreement with the Planning Committee.  Given that that Committee was fairly onerous if you took it seriously, and the members did, I felt that was justified.   I am not so sure about extending allowances to scrutiny which should be part of what all councillors do rather than a "special responsibility."

The other major change is to the allowances paid to the Conservative councillors:

"Currently, the Scheme allocates a special responsibility allowance of £12,785 to the Group Leader of the Principal Opposition Group, namely the Conservative Group, and a second allowance to another member of that Group. It is proposed that the additional workload of the Group Leader of the Brent Conservative Group justifies a special responsibility allowance of £9,000 too. It is also proposed, however, that the second special responsibility allowance currently payable to the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group be deleted."

Brent Tories really are a rather strange group, or rather pair of warring factions, and I am not sure they can justify any payment.

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