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There may not be any Conservative councillors in Newham yet but the local Conservatives are certainly holding the Council to account – as this press release from East Ham Conservatives demonstrates.

East Ham Conservatives have described the recent annual pay bill for councillors in the London Borough of Newham as an absolute disgrace and an insult to the tax-paying public as the cumulative cost of paying for elected representatives since their election in 2006 has reached £3.7 million.

Based on the current average, Newham’s councillors and directly-elected Mayor will face the ballot box in May 2010 having clocked up a £4.9 million package of travel and food expenses, basic allowances and special responsibility payments dolled out under the patronage of Labour’s Sir Robin Wales.

The mandatory annual publication by the Town Hall this month revealed the bill had topped £1,299,681 for the period of April 2008 and March 2009, as opposed to £1,265,818 in 2007-2008 and £1,145,290 in 2006-2007 – this is despite the fact that 67% of Newham councillors also work full time.

A spokesman from East Ham Conservatives said:

"This is getting more obscene every year and the Town Hall is becoming an isle of avarice in a sea of poverty. The Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales has the highest leader’s pay in all of London and he continues to disregard the borough’s dreadful poverty by splashing the cash on keeping his councillors sweet. As Newham residents get crushed by bills and face losing their homes and jobs, our councillors are showing absolute greed. It is shameful to the point of being immoral.’"

This end of year wage bill represents 1.8% of the 2008-2009 Council Tax charge – a bill set by the Labour-run Town Hall which increased the tax burden on residents by 3.2%.

The Conservatives have scrutinised the rising members’ bill for the last three years and have calculated that the Mayor of Newham has amassed a pay packet of £228,234. His deputy Cllr Christine Bowden has accrued £154,215. This year she even had the gall to claim £44 for food and £79 for travel. In the same vein, another four of the Mayor’s closest advisers have been paid over £100,000 in allowances over the same period.

Last year all Newham councillors received a basic annual allowance for performing duties of £10,627 but in a disturbing twist, the Mayor of Newham has repeatedly increased the number of councillors who he pays to perform extra duties – the scale has ranged from between £442 to £43,803. In 2006-2007, 76% of Labour councillors received extra remuneration on top of their allowance; in 2007-2008 this number increased to 80% and in 2008-2009, 81% of the Labour group were in financial hock to the Mayor’s patronage.

The Conservatives analysis has also shown that Labour councillors in the Beckton and East Ham Central wards have cost more than a quarter of a million with staggering bills of £296,010 and £268,524 respectively. Those figures are even larger than the cumulative salary that Sir Robin Wales has received.

The spokesman added:

‘With the final payments expected to reach £4.9 million by next May, there needs to be a through and independent analysis by the Department for Communities and Local Government into these pay arrangements in Newham. For example, we have 11 councillors being paid a total bill of £89,621 to advise the Mayor on ordering council staff to create fun days.’

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