Stephen Tall wrote an interesting post on Councillor’s pay. He informs us that Croydon councillors can look forward to £22,000 per year for his trouble, while their counterparts in Corby gets less than £3,000. I remember running for Bucks County Council a couple of years ago and being sent a helpful guide to the County Councillors’ typical week. This ran to a seven day week for an allowance of about £10,000. This possibly explains why so many of our councillors are retired! I could not possibly keep my family on £10,000 per year – so would have to continue with my day job – thus making the seven day week suggested impossible. Wycombe District Council, for which I’m currently running, would pay me about £4,300 if I were elected – but only want me to put in about 20 hours per week – which is do-able – but I’ll hardly be doing it for the money! In our area, a recent opinion poll showed a majority in favour of moving to a Unitary council – although the District Tories and County Tories disagree with each other on this! But it seems to me that moving to a Unitary might allow more realistic allowances for councillors. Only one party ever manages to fight all of the seats on our District council, and this is largely due to a lack of suitable candidates. A large percentage of councillors are retired (nothing wrong with that in itself – I am not being ‘ageist’), but there are many people who would make fine councillors who feel that they couldn’t effectively split their time between work and council duties. A more realist allowance might allow these people to negotiate shorter hours with their employers because the resultant pay cut would be offset by their councillor’s allowance.
As we approach the May silly season, I find myself despairing at the future of local government. Many of our local councillors are complacent – and well they might be – since half of our seats are ‘safe Tory’, and the others can only be won by a lot of hard work. One problem for both ourselves and, presumably, the local Labour lot, is the shortage of quality candidates. Last time out, several seats in Wycombe actually elected Tories unopposed, because opposing candidates could not be found!
But what incentive is there to be a local councillor? Local councillors are still theoretically unpaid. There is an allowance, but it is a very modest sum compared to the average 70 hours a month that our district councillors give to their duties. Wycombe District has 60 seats – has the time come to reduce that to twenty or thirty who are all paid a reasonable amount for their time?