There was an interesting debate in the House of Commons last week on Local Government Finance. the Conservatives proposed the following motion:
That this House notes with concern that this year's local government finance settlement will increase average Band D council tax to over £120 a month each year despite inflation being negative; cautions that this rise will mean that council tax has more than doubled since 1997 with a third of the increase in the basic state pension being negated by council tax rises; expresses concern at the effect of the Government's social care plans on council budgets; urges the Government to help fund councils in delivering a council tax freeze in England, as is already in operation in Scotland; and asserts that this year's settlement will increase the domestic tax burden at a time when households are already having to restrain their spending as a result of the prolonged recession.
Shadow Local Government spokesman Bob Neill proposed reforms to the system and pointed out how the Government has imposed extra obligations on local authorities without paying the cost – "unfully funded obligation."
But the most remarkable contribution to the debate came from the Labour MP for Ealing Acton and Shepherd's Bush Andrew Slaughter. He said:
Is it particularly good value that both chief executives of the local authorities in my constituency are paid more than the Prime Minister? Is it particularly good value that, while boasting of a pay freeze for senior officers this year, those chief executives gave themselves up to a 9 per cent. increase last year? Is it particularly good value that the leader of one council attempted to give himself a 14 per cent. pay rise for doing the job that he was already doing? We in Hammersmith do not yet, however, have what Kensington and Chelsea has, which is the first £100,000 a year councillor, topping up his salary with money from London councils and, with great irony, the Audit Commission, too.
The Evening Standard's Paul Waugh has blogged a response from the Tory MP for Hammersmith and Fulham Greg Hands.
Mr Hands hits back, saying this is amazing for two reasons.
1. Britain’s highest paid councillor used to be none other than……Cllr Andrew Slaughter himself, who actually introduced Councillors’ allowances in the first place in 1998. He was Britain’s
highest paid councillor. In fact, at that time, the 9 highest paid councillors in Britain were all in H&F and every one of them was Labour.
2. The current Chief Executive of Hammersmith & Fulham Council is Geoff Alltimes, whom Mr Slaughter refers to as being paid more than the Prime Minister. Interestingly, the same Geoff Alltimes was Chief Executive under the Labour administration between 2002 and 2005, when he was also paid more than the PM, and when the Labour Leader was…..Cllr Andrew Slaughter.