John Fox on Neighbourhood Council Allowances

Peterborough Councillor John Fox07:08 Tuesday 8th February 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Now the decision to scrap extra expenses for the three Chairmen of the Neighbourhood Councils has been passed on to the Independent Renumeration Panel. The idea to cut the allowances came after seven councillors conducted a report into the scheme, which was commissioned by Council Leader Marco Cereste. Abolishing the extra expenses would save the Council and us over £21,000 a year. John Fox is one of the seven councillors who was asked to carry out the review. He’s with us this morning. Morning John.
JOHN FOX: Morning. How are you?
PAUL STAINTON: I’m very good. So you were all tasked with carrying out a review. And then your opinion’s not good enough.
JOHN FOX: Well I don’t think it’s a question of not good enough. 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.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. So your decision wasn’t acceptable.
JOHN FOX: Well obviously not. I can’t understand why, because if we all agreed to do that, and thought it was the obvious way forward, I can’t understand why they won’t accept it.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. What recommendations did you make when you’d looked at all this?
JOHN FOX: Well, not to pay it. There’s seven areas. So we said if they had seven Chairmen, but not paid, and the actual councillors for each individual area chose the Chairman, that would make more sense. Because then the Chairman would be a councillor from that area, so would know more about the area than probably somebody coming in from, say, Bretton. We have Pat Nash, who’s a very very hardworking councillor, no disresepct to Pat at all. But she’ll come across from Bretton to Werrington to chair a meeting, and does she really know what’s going on in Werrington, Paston and Gunthorpe? Probably the answer is not as much as the rest of us.
PAUL STAINTON: No. No. Councillors are unhappy with the amount of expenses given to Chairmen. Many councillors have been on this show and said we’re not happy with that. And yet the man who gets you to conduct a review, commissions a report, ignores your advice.
JOHN FOX: Well he hasn’t ignored it yet. Time will tell, when it goes to the Remuneration Panel. But myself, Councillor Swift and Councillor Steve Lane actually went to the Review Panel and put our voices forward loud and clear, that we’re not happy with a lot of the SRAs. When you consider how much we could save, if we got rid of, scrapped, SRAs completely, we’d save a lot of money.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. How hard a job is a Chairman of a Neighbourhood Council? It’s worth about what, seven grand a year in expenses?
JOHN FOX: Well you’re talking about on top of that, and the Chairman’s pay, you’re talking about fifteen grand a year.
PAUL STAINTON: Each?
JOHN FOX: Well it’s seven and seven, fourteen, it’s just under fifteen grand. So you’re looking at quite a large wage. My wife doesn’t earn that for a full time job.
PAUL STAINTON: No. What do these Chairmen do exactly?
JOHN FOX: Well they chair meetings.
PAUL STAINTON: Talking shop basically. Just sit around.
JOHN FOX: Well no, they chair a meeting. They’re very good at it, there’s no two ways about that.
PAUL STAINTON: But not many people turn up, do they?
JOHN FOX: You’re talking about how many meetings a year, to chair a meeting?
PAUL STAINTON: And how many people on average turn up?
JOHN FOX: On ours about an average of about fifteen.
PAUL STAINTON: Fifteen. And some less than that, isn’t it? So ..
JOHN FOX: I believe so. Yes.
PAUL STAINTON: Isn’t it all a bit of a waste of time?
JOHN FOX: Well I wouldn’t say the Neighbourhood Councils are a waste of time. I’m 100% behind them. I think it’s a fantastic idea if the public embrace it, and that’s the key issue. We try to get the public to embrace it, because it will give them a better voice. But I think it’s a waste of time paying somebody to chair a meeting, when there’s people who are willing to do it for nothing.
PAUL STAINTON: If this is thrown out, where does it leave you John? What do you have to say, if your recommendations are ignored?
JOHN FOX: I’ve got more important things to do with my time than sit on panels debating things and discussing things if, at the end of the day, basically what we decided people are not going to listen to. There’s no point in us talking about it.
PAUL STAINTON: So if your advice is ignored ..
JOHN FOX: I shall have to review my position on that panel.
PAUL STAINTON: John, thank you for your time this morning. Councillor John Fox from Werrington. After 8 this morning we’ll have a chat with the man who commissioned the review, Council Leader Marco Cereste.

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1 thought on “John Fox on Neighbourhood Council Allowances”

  1. John Fox sounds like a nice enough guy, but he’s misrepresenting the purpose of a review. It looks into things, makes RECOMMENDATIONS, advises.

    There is no obligation to take the advice – after all it is the people making the decision who will take the flak if its wrong, not the people who conducted the review. I’ve been on reviews that had lots of impact and others that are completely ignored – it goes with the territory. You can’t just throw your toys out of the pram if you don’t get your way.

    Equally, trying to undercut your way into a post of responsibility (even by offering to do the job for free) is a bit dodgy, in my opinion. It’s like when a friend offers to fix your computer for free and then completely buggers it up – you might wish you’d paid a few bucks to get it done professionally. Though I do support the idea of elected chairmen – elections are almost always better than appointments.

    I must stress that I dont know enough about the panels themselves to comment on whether the review came to the right decision or not – although the arguments made here are quite convincing.

    Interesting article.

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