I came across this section in an article recently in one of the many blogs I follow which was discussing the situation with the Labour party in Birmingham which is now the majority party on the council due to their gains in the local elections recently.
It struck me as an unethical thing to be doing. Furthermore, set against a background of a party contesting cuts in National and Local government, arguing for the poor and denouncing the lie that is the phrase ‘we’re all in this together’ the so called ’party of the people/poor/squeezed middle’ doesn’t seem so principled after all…
”And now it’s emerged that a further six per cent could be lopped from the allowances by orders of the Labour Party. The last Labour conference backed the proposal to take up to six per cent from allowances paid to its councillors across the country.
But unlike the 10 per cent cut, the six per cent levy won’t be a saving to the public purse. The money will still be paid each month to councillors who will then “voluntarily” hand it over in order to help patch up the Labour Party’s rocky finances.
The special levy won’t just apply to SRAs, but will also hit the basic £16,267 a year paid to all Labour councillors in Birmingham.
Unsurprisingly, the proposal prompted a stormy reaction at a recent Labour group meeting with protests from a number of quarters. It seems that the national Labour Party levy was originally to have been set at two per cent, but this figure can be topped up to six per cent if council groups agree at a local level.
A 16 per cent cut would reduce the total council salary paid to incoming city leader Sir Albert Bore by a whopping £11,000, but he would still be on about £61,000 plus the £55,000 he receives for being chairman of the Birmingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Cabinet members would find themselves £7,600 the poorer, and even backbenchers without SRAs would be £972 worse off.
To make matters worse, the additional levy of two or six per cent will go to help fund the West Midlands Labour Party which is an organisation with the ability to stir up strong feelings among many a local councillor.
The six per cent levy is believed to be supported by Sir Albert and deputy Labour leader Ian Ward. But the pair will find it difficult to get agreement at the annual group meeting this Saturday and may have to make compromises.”
I was struck by the concept that Labour felt it was justified for money to be transferred to the party purse in this way… firstly, I object to this as many councillors give up a lot of time and effort (at least if they are doing their job properly… and yes, even Labour ones ) and they should not be required to hand over payments in this manner…
Secondly, if the Councilors really can get by without that money then they should just accept a pay reduction and not take the payment in the first place to allow the money to be spent on other programmes and vulnerable areas of local government instead.
I do not think it a reasonable or appropriate move for the regional labour parties t adopt a policy of directing pay of those working for local government into party coffers, if the Councillors want to give donations then so be it, but I think it is highly immoral and unethical for the Labour party to demand this of their councillors.
NB: I have not had a chance to verify this myself, if you have any information, links, etc please comment below the article and I will amend my post accordingly and I would be interested to access more information about this. Do any other parties follow a similar policy? Does anyone know of a reason why this is seen as acceptable?
EDIT: I’m informed that this happens within the Liberal Democrats. Apparently the justification for such behaviour is that it is to support local party and campaigning activity… is this really a good enough justification? Should we be doing this?