Marco Cereste on Neighbourhood Council Allowances

Marco Cereste08:13 Tuesday 8th February 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: The decision to scrap extra expenses for the three Chairmen of Peterborough’s Neighbourhood Councils has been passed on to the Independent Renumeration Panel. The idea to cut the allowance came after seven councillors conducted a report into the scheme. Abolishing the extra expenses would save the Council over £20,000 a year. John Fox was one of the seven who was asked to carry out the review. (TAPE)
JOHN FOX: All seven people decided this unanimously. There was no real debate about it. We were all convinced that there was no necessity to pay these. In fact myself and Councillor Goldspink offered to do the job for nothing, therefore saving money. But unfortunately that’s not been taken on. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well let’s speak to the Leader of Peterborough City Council, Marco Cereste. Morning Marco.
MARCO CERESTE: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Now you launched the review, didn’t you, after a number of councillors complained about the scheme. And the review reported back, saying, just scrap the allowance. But you’ve decided to refer it to this panel. Why is that?
MARCO CERESTE: Well actually no I didn’t. I don’t know who’s reported it to you, but we didn’t decide to refer it to the panel. The panel’s already reviewed it a few weeks ago, and they didn’t think that was .. and that’s certainly not the recommendation they made.
PAUL STAINTON: They didn’t recommend it be scrapped?
MARCO CERESTE: No, absolutely not. And I don’t .. I mean I have a lot of respect for Councillor Fox, but one of the recommendations was also to have seven Neighbourhood Council’s self-electing Chairs, as well as .. instead of the three, which would have meant a huge amount of extra work and a hell of a lot of extra cost, which was probably more than outweighed the cost of the Special Responsibility Allowance. Anyway, I think it’s just grossly unfair that these opposition councillors snipe at the administration, and suggest that people should work, give up their time. And you know, they work really really hard, the Chairs of Neighbourhood Councils.
PAUL STAINTON: Did you set up the review though, of these seven? You put these seven councillors into this review, didn’t you?
MARCO CERESTE: I didn’t choose the seven councillors.
PAUL STAINTON: You set up the review though, didn’t you?
MARCO CERESTE: I did set up the review. They made I think fifteen recommendations. We’ve gone with thirteen of them.
PAUL STAINTON: Some of these councillors in the review, Marco, were Tory councillors from your group.
MARCO CERESTE: Yes that’s correct.
PAUL STAINTON: So you’re saying they’re wrong, they’re talking rubbish?
MARCO CERESTE: No. I’m not saying that. You’re saying that, not me. What I’m saying to you is that having read their rrecommendations very very carefully, I don’t agree with them.
PAUL STAINTON: So you rejected it. They’re wrong. You’re saying they’re wrong.
MARCO CERESTE: I’m saying to you that exactly that, that I don’t agree with them, or not necessarily .. well, hang on ..
PAUL STAINTON: Why don’t you agree with scrapping these allowances for the Chairs, when seven people from your party and other parties independently have ..
MARCO CERESTE: .. you take a 25% cut in your salary.
MARCO CERESTE: Why don’t you take a 25% cut in your salary. to help the money that the BBC needs to save?
PAUL STAINTON: Because then I’d be working for nothing.
MARCO CERESTE: Well then so would we. And why do you .. and why is that you always pick on our councillors when they get a Special Responsibility Allowance for working day and night, giving up their evenings, giving up their weekends. And you turn it into a political issue, when you don’t appreciate what they do for you?
PAUL STAINTON: John Fox and the other councillors brought this to our attention.
MARCO CERESTE: John Fox this .. John Fox is an opposition MP (sic) for whom I have a lot of respect. But you are not being independent.
PAUL STAINTON: John Fox has threatened to resign over this.
MARCO CERESTE: Well John Fox can resign if he wants to, and so can Councillor Goldspink. He should do anyway. He was elected as a Conservative, and he’s got no mandate to stand.
PAUL STAINTON: They offered to do the job for free.
MARCO CERESTE: Well they offered to do the job for free. Why don’t you do the job for free?
PAUL STAINTON: I’m here to report and be a judge on on the news, not to do the job that you should do, or others should do. These guys ..
MARCO CERESTE: I’m here to do the job. I am here to do the job. They have reported, They made fifteen recommendations, thirteen of which we agreed. And just because you have got a thing about councillors being paid something for doing the work that they do, you’re making a big issue of it.
PAUL STAINTON: Eric Pickles might have something to say as well.
MARCO CERESTE: I suggest that if you really want to do your job properly ..what we should do is go through the recommendations and see whether or not these recommendations are reasonable and sensible. Now we had an independent panel review the SRAs. And the independent panel has actually not said they should be scrapped. The independent panel has made no mention that they should be scrapped. Now two opposition councillors come along, and you continuously, as you do every time I come on the show ..
PAUL STAINTON: Seven councillors. Not two independent, seven councillors have recommended ..
MARCO CERESTE: Seven councillors ..
PAUL STAINTON: Some from your group.
MARCO CERESTE: .. recommendations ..
PAUL STAINTON: Some from your group.
MARCO CERESTE: And 41 of them don’t agree. They made those recommendations. Now if I ..
PAUL STAINTON: So you know 41 councillors don’t agree.
MARCO CERESTE: Are you saying then that we should introduce all of the recommendations, even if they were to cost the City Council fifty or sixty thousand pound extra?
PAUL STAINTON: I’m not saying anything. I’m reporting what these seven councillors have said.
MARCO CERESTE: And I’m telling you that I don’t agree with what those councillors said.
PAUL STAINTON: But you set up the review.
MARCO CERESTE: Well I set up the review. We’ve had an independent report as well. And I’m going with the independent report.
PAUL STAINTON: So what’s going to happen going forward then?
MARCO CERESTE: We’re going to introduce all of the thirteen objectives that they want, except, except, except creating seven new councillors (sic), which would cost us a lot more money and a lot more time. And we are going to go with the independent panel’s review, that we will continue to pay councillors, when they work, they give up their time, they give up their time with their families. They spend weekends and evenings out with the Council. And you turn round and one or two Independent councillors who have got a ..
PAUL STAINTON: Seven councillors have all come to the same conclusion. It’s nothing to do with me.
MARCO CERESTE: Seven councillors have all come to the same conclusion, and they were wrong.
PAUL STAINTON: Will you be taking up Nick Sandford and John Fox’s offer to do this job free of charge?
MARCO CERESTE: What?! Of course not. And what .. is is is is is is is is .. David Cameron going to give the opposition a key posts within the Cabinet? He’s not. It’s ridiculous Paul, and you should know better.
PAUL STAINTON: Marco Cereste, Leader of Peterborough City Council. We’ll leave it there.