Cllr Jim McMahon, the Labour candidate in the Oldham West and Royton by-election, is among the highest paid councillors in the country – picking up £81,598 in allowances funded by Council Taxpayers.
As an Oldham councillor he is paid a “basic allowance” of £9,239. He is also paid another £27,717 for being council leader and another £5,543 “combined authority payment”. Then he also obtains a further allowance of £39,099 for chairing the Labour Group on the Local Government Association.
The council leader’s own pay reflects a general culture of extravagance on Oldham Council when it comes to spending their residents’ money. It has one of the highest Council Tax levels in the country – £1,393 at Band D.
Cllr McMahon justified a 3.5 per cent Council Tax increase in 2013 saying he wanted to “dispense with the myth that there is an alternative out there”. The following year the Local Government Information Unit – whose members include Oldham Council – named him “Council Leader of the Year”.
The Council objected to the requirement for spending transparency on items over £500 and senior staff salaries. No wonder. The Council employs 25 staff on over £100,000 a year. That is the joint highest in the North West with Cumbria. Oldham Council’s “Executive Director: Neighbourhoods” is paid £160,000 a year.
The Council also employs 17 press officers.
Oldham Council also has a particularly bad record for the number of children in care shunted around different placements. The latest figures show 40.7 per cent of children in care had to move home two of more times in a year. Often this figure indicates discrimination against adoption. Children are taken from foster carers, returned to their birth mothers, despite a high risk of further abuse or neglect and then brought back into the care system to have the disruption of a different foster carer.
This policy is not only highly expensive for Council Taxpayers but also a betrayal of the children who suffer as a result.
There has been much talk about “making” the by-election on December 3rd a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn. No doubt there will be some who have voted Labour previously who may be considering “sending a message” in that regard. But I also hope that some Oldham residents may take the opportunity to give a verdict on their council leader’s record.