07:08 Thursday 1st December 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: Yesterday we brought you the exclusive news about possible changes to councillor allowances in the city. An independent panel has suggested a cut in the size of the Cabinet, and a reduction in the money given to those with special reponsibilities, whatever that means. This could mean an extra cash rise in allowances for members by about 13%, if it all goes through. The recommendations will be debated at the Full Council meeting next Wednesday. Yesterday we spoke to the Leader of the Liberal Democrat group in Peterborough, Councillor Nick Sandford. This is what he had to say. (TAPE)
NICK SANDFORD: There’s a need to attract more people to become councillors. What they would rather do is take away some of these so-called special responsibility payments, or to actually reduce them, and to use that to increase the basic allowance payable to all Members of the Council. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well that’s what Nick Sandford had to say. Ed Murphy, councillor for Ravensthorpe, is putting forward a motion at the Full Council meeting next week to cut allowances and expenses by about £200,000. Morning Ed.
ED MURPHY: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: So you’re not for this, obviously, for a rise in allowances effectively, a redistribution of the wealth, if you like.
ED MURPHY: No. We’re spending nearly £800,000 on councillors’ expenses, and quite frankly the Conservative Leader has been using that to buy friends. You can’t buy friends Marco. You need to get real. You shouldn’t be paying yourself ..
PAUL STAINTON: When you say that ..
ED MURPHY: .. so much money.
PAUL STAINTON: .. obviously he’s not here to defend himself. What he would say is he’s giving money to people who are in posts for special responsibility allowances that are doing a job for the Council.
ED MURPHY: Yes. A Cabinet Member for Children’s Services who doesn’t know whether the child murdered was on her at-risk register or not. They’re not worth it. The Council doesn’t carry out the service that it used to do many years ago. They’ve privatised an awful lot. There’s far too many people getting far too much in expenses. With £200,000, we could employ some additional social workers to protect children. We could employ some people in the voluntary sector to do work in the city. We could save some rates money.
PAUL STAINTON: So this independent report, it suggests a couple of things, amongst other things. It suggests that there are too many Cabinet Members, earning too much in special responsibility allowances, but then it suggests that that money is then taken and given as a sort of rise to other councillors, to attract councillors into the Council. That’s not a bad thing, is it?
ED MURPHY: Where I agree with the independent review is that there are far too many people. We maxed out on special advisers, and quite frankly they’ve got some weird titles, getting special responsibility allowances. I agree with them on that. Where I don’t agree with them, at this stage, in the current economic situation, we cannot give a basic increase to the basic allowances that councillors get. I think we should freeze it. We should cut the number of people getting special additional money. Make some savings.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. So Neighbourhood Councils would go, would they, in your plan?
ED MURPHY: Neighbourhood Councils wouldn’t go, but you don’t need to pay thousands of pounds for somebody to chair a meeting a few times a year. When we move towards a situation of Neighbourhood Committees, where the councillors have got equal responsibility and they share that around, and they don’t want payment for it. Bear in min in Peterborough as well, you go to the Parish Councils, for years and years and years, they’ve provided a very very good service at no cost whatsoever. The Parish Councils in Eye and Thorney and Bretton don’t take a penny. And actually in many cases they provide better leadership and governance than the City Council.
PAUL STAINTON: But if we want to attract dynamic business people, dynamic public service people, into the Council, the people that know what they’re doing, they’ve already got well-paid jobs, they’ve already got a lot of time on their hands, they need to have some sort of fillip for coming in. They need to cover their costs, don’t they?
ED MURPHY: there’s a basic allowance, which is quite generous, and we don’t need special responsibility allowances. Again, the Leader of the Council gets tens of thousands of pounds. Prior to being the Leader of the Council he got tens of thousands of pounds for running the Primary Care Trust, and ran it into the ground. These big monies aren’t attracting the people with the skills. What you want is people who are committed, who want to serve the community, who want to serve Peterborough, and are not in it for what they can get for themselves.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. So we don’t just want wealthy people in the Council.
ED MURPHY: Of course not. We need to do something about attracting people from all ages, and all parts of the community in Peterborough.
PAUL STAINTON: Do you think cutting allowances will attract those sorts of people then?
ED MURPHY: I don’t think it’s about allowances. I think it’s about the type of things that the Council do. It’s about empowering people. It’s about the way that we do things. I do actually myself believe the committee structure, where councillors had responsibility, was better and would be a better way of doing things. Frankly, there’s another way of looking at governance in Peterborough as well, the whole idea of elected mayors.
PAUL STAINTON: You’re for that as well, are you?
ED MURPHY: I think it’s something that should be considered in Peterborough, a direct mandate. But again, I don’t think we should be paying a fortune for somebody to be an elected mayor.
PAUL STAINTON: So we save this money, this £200,000. What do we do with it?
ED MURPHY: Well for example it could go to the voluntary sector. That’s what they’ve done in Huntingdon. It could employ social workers. It could protect children’s play in Peterborough.
PAUL STAINTON: And do you think you’ll get much support for your motion next Wednesday night?
ED MURPHY: If the Members of the Council look at the motion, and think of it from their individual points of view, and how they feel, I think I will get a high degree of support. If there’s a whip on the Conservative group, and they’re told they’ve got to support it, so the Council Leader can use this money as a sweetshop to influence his friends, then I think I might lose.
PAUL STAINTON: Do you think turkeys are going to vote for Christmas? Seriously.
ED MURPHY: I know there’s a few that are quite upset at the way the Council’s being run. And they do actually believe .. We’ve maxed out. We can’t have any more special advisers. They know it’s wrong.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. Well good luck with your motion next Wednesday night. And we’ll see whether your motion goes through, whether the independent panel’s report gets accepted. We heard yesterday that perhaps ..
ED MURPHY: Well I’m not sure whether any of them will get through, but then again, things happen behind the scenes, and there might be some bullying going on.
PAUL STAINTON: (LAUGHS) Well you never know. I don’t know what you’re insinuation. Councillor Ed Murphy from the Labour group this morning.