On the day our councillors in Redcar & Cleveland voted on putting up the council tax rise of 3.99%, (rejected by all Labour councillors), during a pandemic that has brought residents and businesses to the brink, our Independent Council Leader Councillor Mary Lanigan accepted a 30.8% pay rise without any display of discomfort. Yes that’s 30.8%.
I stated she should turn it down but she was having none of it. To be honest I was amazed she had no plan to do something alternative. Turn it down or give it to a good cause.
Redcar & Cleveland’s past Labour leaders had rejected pay increases on their pay for over 10 years. In times of crises (and this year is unprecedented) this was a matter of discretion and integrity. And the Council Leader failed. Like Labour leaders of the past she could have turned it down, particularly during this year that has been like no other.
This is a council leader who no longer leads her Independent group because it’s too much work. She received a pay rise of £5095 but didn’t turned it down on the same day as putting up council tax by 4% and while everyone else is on their knees.
To clarify this is an independent audit so as councillors we don’t tend to get involved as it isn’t right setting our own pay and interference can be misconstrued.. But the leader’s pay rise is at her own discretion whether to accept it or not but she failed to turn down what is effectively ten years backpay.
What many people don’t realise is R&C Labour leaders did turn down the pay rise for ten years because of austerity and because this is a deprived borough, which is why it’s one of the lowest in the country by a long way. At least it was. I guarantee if the leader had been Labour accepting this award it would have been front page news in the local newspapers with a hard hitting headline. I expect it would have been on the local news channels too.
On setting members allowances here is my speech In full to full council on the 25th February 2021.
“We have this report year on year and accept the findings from the independent audit. It would be perverse to set our own pay so it is right we are hands off. However, after hiking up the council tax I am sure the Leader will agree that her pay rise of over £5000 on her allowance this year is coming at the wrong time and she should reject it. I fully appreciate that the leader level is out of kilter with other authorities but after asking families to pay more during a pandemic while receiving a hefty rise in personal allowance cannot be palatable.
“One thing I remain uncomfortable about Madam Mayor is the fact we have two Independent Leaders which increases the allowance bill unnecessarily.
“Bizarrely, we have an Independent council leader, independent from the Independent group she is part of. She has created an Independent Leader of the Council position for herself and The Independent group have their own Independent Group Leader, the second one in two years, maybe they are taking in turns Madam Mayor, who knows.
“So instead of collecting one Independent Leaders allowance they are collecting two. It’s confusing but with some exceptions on the opposite benches, the majority of the Lib Dems are fine with this. I don’t know how the Conservatives view it, but silence would suggest it’s all good.”