08:20 Thursday 12th September 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: Senior managers at Cambridgeshire County Council could soon receive a pay rise, if proposals being discussed on Monday are approved. The news comes a few months after the Cabinet told staff they needed to reduce staffing costs by 3%. LibDem councillors are urging officials to reject the pay increase and say the proposal is devastating for staff morale. Well speaking to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s Drivetime show, their Spokesman for Resources Ian Manning urged council officials to show leadership when considering the proposal to increase some Council officers’ pay. (TAPE)
IAN MANNING: This is about what does the Council have control of. The Council has, it individually has, direct control of the wages of the management and senior management staff. And that is why I think they should be showing leadership, in the same way that we did when we voted against giving councillors a pay rise. They should be showing leadership and saying we know how tough it is. We’re not taking more money. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well that’s what the LibDems had to say. Let’s get reaction from the Leader of UKIP on Cambridgeshire County Council, councillor Peter Reeve. Morning Peter.
PETER REEVE: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: We’re not talking about a big pay rise here, are we?
PETER REEVE: Well what we’re talking about is this council saying to the people of Cambridgeshire we’re going to give you year on year tax rises. And that’s what the LibDems Labour and Conservatives are planning. And yet on the other hand saying they’re going to pay their Chief Exec and their executive officers even more money. Now I’m sorry, my heart doesn’t bleed for the Chief Exec of Cambridgeshire who’s earning something like £180,000, when we’re telling people out there who are struggling to feed their family and pay their mortgages that the Council is going to take even more.
PAUL STAINTON: Don’t we want the best officers though? We want the best officers on our councils don’t we? And you’ve got to pay for them.
PETER REEVE: Well there’s an internal market in local government, where we’re constantly told that to get the best chief executives and the best directors you’ve got to pay a small fortune. We in UKIP just don’t believe that’s true. We think it’s a market that inflates itself, and if you start tackling it, then all of these cost inflations will go down. You don’t need to pay the Chief Exec of Cambridgeshire more than the Prime Minister.
PAUL STAINTON: Many football fans don’t want to pay footballers £100,000 a week, but the market is the market. And that’s the same, isn’t it, with chief executives. You can’t alter that market. If you pay less, you’ll end up with a lesser chief executive, won’t you?
PETER REEVE: At the end of the day it’s a captured market. So these executives move from council to council, constantly raising the costs, and claiming that they’d earn twice the money if they were out in the public sector. Well my argument to them would be if they think they can, they should go off and do it, and leave us in Cambridgeshire to be able to reduce the cost to a more sensible level.
PAUL STAINTON: OK. So let’s say for instance in an ideal world we’ll get rid of the Chief Executive on Cambridgeshire County Council and save that money. We’ll get rid of the Chief Exec on Peterborough City Council and we’ll save that money. Who’s going to run these councils, and how much are we going to pay them?
PETER REEVE: Well one of the ideas we in UKIP are putting forward is that we should look to unitaries, rather than having chief execs and executives in every district council across Cambridgeshire, each of them being paid a small fortune. Just in Huntingdonshire alone the Chief Exec there is on £150,000, and that’s extra to what the Cambridgeshre Chief Exec is earning – it’s crazy, if we had unitary, we would only need one set of executive officers, and that’s exactly what UKIP’s proposing.
PAUL STAINTON: What? A whole .. What? bring Peterborough in as well. We’re going to have one .. go back to Cambridgeshire are we? Just one?
PETER REEVE: I’d very much like to see that. Now whether the other parties would make that practically possible is another matter. But if you want to get executive salaries in line with the job, you should have one set of executives across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and that would offset a huge amount of management costs. The Liberal Democrats also are being slightly awry in what their spokesman is saying. because at Group Leaders meeting their Group Leader certainly wasn’t discouraging in any great extent management pay rises and executive pay rises. It was only UKIP who spoke out, saying this is absolutely disgraceful.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. So we go back to the future. One big Cambridgeshire, save a fortune, and that will be sufficient for the County.
PETER REEVE: In my eyes, and our party’s eyes, absolutely. We could deliver services much better through local councils, parish councils, where remember the councillors there don’t get paid at all, yet many of them work as hard or harder than county councillors. We could reduce the huge amount of money being spent on councillors, which in itself is a disgrace, and we could actually make this decision making and the use of resources far more effective. That’s what UKIP is all about, adding value to the taxpayer and reducing their taxes.
PAUL STAINTON: Peter, thank you for that. Our next guest might have something to say on that. Peterborough City Council Leader Marco Cereste. Morning Marco.
MARCO CERESTE: Hello Paul. How are you doing?
PAUL STAINTON: I know you’re here to talk about wi-fi, but Peter Reeve has just let the cat out of the bag. He says we can save a fortune by going back to having one big council across Cambridgeshire. What do you think?
MARCO CERESTE: He doesn’t know what he’s talking about clearly.
PAUL STAINTON: Why is that not a good idea then?
MARCO CERESTE: Well I mean .. well you could save a fortune but you wouldn’t have the cities and qualities of administration that you’ve got today. What we need to do if we really want to talk sensible is start merging the administrations, but keep the sovereignty of the various organisations where they’re viable. So local people have a local say and have local councillors. But what we don’t want to be doing is wasting money on administration, which is what most of us are trying to do right now. So you know perhaps he ought to get up to date with what’s going on.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. I take it from your response you’re not a fan of his suggestion. But you’re a big fan of free wi-fi. And it’s here in Peterborough now. It’s been a while, but it’s here now.
MARCO CERESTE: Well you’ve got it, haven’t you? How long have we been talking about it Paul? We had a bit of a laugh about this about four years ago. And we’ve got it. It’s in the city centre. It’s working. It’s great. It extends all round the square, down to the Long Causeway and down most of Bridge Street, as a first shot if you like, a first pilot. And then we’ll extend it around the entire city centre as soon as.
PAUL STAINTON: There’s a cost implication here, but you think the benefits outweigh that do they?
MARCO CERESTE: Well it’s only a cost implication ’til we get it commercialised. And then I would imagine that what will happen is people will say, oh this is a really good idea. And there will be some services that we will be able to track via the wi-fi, which will pay for it. It’s very minimal. It’s only £5000 a year. We’re not talking about fortunes.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes.
MARCO CERESTE: And you know I mean that will .. just the information process on that is going to be fantastic. Local businesses can use this. It’s not just outside. It goes into the buildings, so local businesses can use it. We can then look at a proper Peterborough app. and all the applications go with it. Advertising, bringing people into the city, making people use the wi-fi, allowing people to use the wi-fi. It’s ever so simple. You just click onto you .. you know .. your own system or whatever, application you’re using, and connect to the web. I mean you know there’s no password or anything like that. It’s really great. Fantastic. I used it yesterday. And it’s really simple and easy and it really works. We were streaming films and that, just checking things out. And it works very well.
PAUL STAINTON: Is it any better than what we already have though, with 3G? That was alright, wasn’t it? Do we really need it?
MARCO CERESTE: Well you know 3G is people’s phones. It doesn’t work .. it won’t work anywhere near as powerful as wi-fi. And of course it’s a service .. it’s another service for the people that use the city, and it will enable us to probably connect CCTV to it. It will enable us to tell people as they arrive in the railway station all about Peterborough, where to go, what to do, all that sort of stuff. It’s .. I mean you know we’ve taken the city into the 21st century. I would imagine the entire country will be covered with wi-fi. (LAUGHS)
PAUL STAINTON: Sooner or later I think. Yes. We won’t be able to escape people walking around, bumping into people on their phones, not looking where they’re going. Yes. Brilliant. Thank you Marco. Marco Cereste, Leader of Peterborough City Council.