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Liberal Democrats to force another vote on councillors' allowance rise

February 25, 2017 11:01 AM
  • Lib Dem alternative budget aims to reduce the cost of democracy.
  • Council Tax discount for the poorest.
  • Extra money on pot-holes and push to safeguard services.
Rochdale Liberal Democrats will force a another vote on freezing Councillors' allowances at next week's annual budget meeting. As part of their 'alternative', fully costed budget - Councillors Andy Kelly and Irene Davidson claim that their budget will protect the most vulnerable, ease the Council Tax rise for the poorest whilst putting in an extra £500,000 sorting pot-holes on top of the £1,000,000 pledged by the Council. They have also promised to sort out the Council Staff sickness problems that has contributed to over £5,000,000 a year being spent by the council on agency staff.
Rochdale Liberal Democrat finance spokesperson Robert McLean said: "First and foremost our budget is an opportunity for Councillors to vote against the rise in Councillor's Allowances. Our budget freezes Councillor's pay. Councillors from both Labour and the Conservatives have been shocked by the backlash from residents after they voted themselves a 34% pay rise. This is an opportunity to right that wrong and send a clear message that they are not in this for the money. Residents clearly back our stance. Over 1600 people have signed an online petition and in our budget we have gone further. Many of their perks will go if we get our way. No more free refreshments, we're axing pay for jobs that many councillors simply don't carry out and getting rid of some of their spin doctors. This is a budget takes money out of the pockets of councillors and helps those most indeed."
Councillor Andy Kelly said: "Everyone know that finances at the Council are tight but we feel our budget is fair and responsible. We have worked through our proposals with council staff and they have stated that it is a 'legal, balanced budget' that can be implemented for the next financial year. Council Tax payers in this Borough face a 4.99% rise from next year. It's the maximum allowed without holding a full public referendum. Some 3% of this is to fund social care; 1.99% will go into council coffers and help pay for a potential pay rise for Councillors. We will will cap Council Tax rises at 3% for anyone living in houses in Bands A, B and C. That way, we help the poorest across the borough. I don't think that either Labour nor the Conservatives can argue with that. They have a clear choice next week: It's their pay rise or help for our poorest."
The Liberal Democrats will also aim to get to grips with absence caused by staff sickness at the Council. Currently the average number of days a Council employee has off per year is 7.62 (equivalent to over a week and a half) This is one of the highest in the country and the Lib Dems will aim to work with senior management to cut this significantly. The amount of sickness at the Council has contributed significantly to a £5.5m agency bill - nearly £2m more than neighbouring Oldham Council.
Former Council Leader, Councillor Irene Davidson said: "This is a common sense budget that aims to put resident's first. For too long, there has been a sense of entitlement amongst many councillors. Not only would we scrap the rise, we would cut the number of Cabinet Members from nine to seven and scrap allowances for Assistant Cabinet Members and the Leader of the Opposition's allowance amongst other things. These are 'non-jobs' and scrapping the salary is a sensible move. We have also concerns that the Council is still paying out too much in compensation to people affected by the poor state of our roads. We've paid out £1.9m in the last five years including over £300,000 in just eight months to January. It is for that reason we will invest an £500,000 extra on top of the £1m already pledged to fix our broken roads and reduce the compensation bill."