Council pay rise rebels will hand extra money to women’s charity
Councillors opposed to lift in allowances for local politicians donate to Solace
17 October, 2019 — By Richard Osley
REBEL Labour councillors who opposed the party’s decision to award themselves inflation-busting pay rises have announced they will give the money to charity.
Eight members of the ruling group at the Town Hall urged others to follow suit by donating to Solace Women’s Aid, the nominated charity for the current mayoral year.
It follows an internal split over the hiking of allowances during unprecedented local government cuts.
Half of Camden’s councillors did not take part in a vote last Monday which confirmed the pay rises, which will see some of the biggest increases go to cabinet members and committee chairs.
Supporters of the move said Camden could not afford to keep freezing councillor allowances – as it had done for several years – if it wanted to diversify the membership of the council chamber.
Dissenters, however, either did not turn up to the meeting, left early or took a tactical toilet break to avoid voting. This meant they did not break the party whip, a move which it was claimed behind the scenes would have triggered a “purge” of the left from the Labour group.
Five Conservatives were the only members on record as voting against the pay rises, with the opposition group insisting an underspend should have been shared with backbenchers.
The Lib Dems supported the rises. Sole Green councillor Sian Berry left the meeting early, sick, but says she supports the reform of councillor pay.
Today (Thursday), the councillors who are donating their pay rises urged others “who could afford to” to do the same in a letter to the CNJ.
The signatories were Ranjit Singh, Leo Cassarani, Douglas Beattie, Sue Vincent, Thomas Gardiner, Georgie Robertson, Lorna Russell, and the Mayor herself, Maryam Eslamdoust.
“While we strongly agree with colleagues who wish to improve diversity within the council, we have not seen evidence that the pay rise will achieve this,” they said.
The majority of BAME, disabled and working-class councillors sit on the back benches and this increase will not immediately affect them or make becoming a councillor more accessible to people from diverse backgrounds.”
A handful of other Labour councillors are understood to have made a private decision to use the money on charitable donations but are not willing to say so publicly because they fear it would put pressure on those who are more in need of the extra money.
Labour chief whip councillor Lazzaro Pietragnoli admitted at last week’s meeting that it was “embarrassing” for councillors to set their own allowances, but this was standard local government procedure.
The Labour group voted to make supporting the pay rises official party policy over the summer during internal meetings earlier.
Council leader Georgia Gould will see her allowance lifted from £30,000 to £40,000, while cabinet members will receive a 54 per cent rise.
How the increases stack up
Cllr Eslamdoust this week met Solace staff at refuge in Camden and met survivors of domestic abuse who the charity is helping. “Escaping the effects of abuse and violence can be the hardest thing to do. I am so pleased that the women I spoke to are on the road to recovery,” she said.
Nearly 140 women and children used Solace refuges in Camden last year.