Kirklees Council’s leadership has been accused of “bullying” and an “abuse of power” for asking councillors to publicly state whether they will be taking a pay cut.
At today’s full council meeting (September 13), councillors will be asked to individually declare whether they agree to take a five percent cut to their allowances and reject a proposed increase. However, in a heated debate at today’s Corporate Governance and Audit Committee meeting, Cllr John Taylor (Con, Kirkburton) accused the Labour administration of an “abuse of power” and “trying to force people who may be struggling financially to take a pay cut”.
He said that councillors were under “severe pressure to conform” due to the nature of the vote and that if this approach was taken with employees “unions would be up in arms.” He added that it was “outrageous” to ask people to publicly declare that they can’t afford a pay cut, and although he “fully supported the sentiment” of cuts to councillor allowances, he said: “…to bully members and abuse power in this way is something I find completely unacceptable and will not support.”
Cllr Taylor also said that the only two members of the council that would not be seeing pay reductions were the Leader, Cllr Cathy Scott, and Deputy Leader, Cllr Paul Davies, who had seen their allowances increase after taking on their new roles.
Cllr Paul Davies said it was “outrageous” of Cllr Taylor to accuse the leader and administration of bullying and accused him of “political grandstanding”. He said: “It’s not about bullying or abusing power, it’s about standing alongside our staff.”
As part of its measures to save cash and make a £47m saving, Kirklees Council will be making 250 members of its workforce redundant between October and March. Trade union, UNISON, says that this is only “phase one” of the redundancies and that the council is still looking to lose around 750 workers, as was initially announced by Chief Executive, Jacqui Gedman.
Cllr Davies added: “I’m extremely disappointed that you see fit to make personal attacks on individuals that are doing their best to support staff.”
Cllr Andrew Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) said, while he wouldn’t use the word bullying, it could be a better approach for the vote to be ‘de-personalised’ as not to put councillors who were unable to take the cuts in an “embarrassing position.” This was discussed by the committee but was not taken forward for tomorrow’s meeting.
Chief Executive, Jacqui Gedman, explained that other approaches had been considered when the report was put together but ultimately, regardless of how the vote was carried out, the information on how members voted would be available to the public.
Harry McCarthy (Labour, Colne Valley) said that it was a “privilege” for councillors to get to make a decision when “hundreds of council officers won’t be able to make a decision on whether they lose their jobs or not.”
Every Kirklees councillor is entitled to a basic allowance of £15,080 and receives additional payment if they hold extra responsibilities. Soon after becoming Acting Leader, Cllr Scott, proposed cuts to councillor allowances, taking a 10% cut to her Leader’s allowance and the nine other cabinet members, a 5% reduction on their £13,709 allowance.
This was followed by the proposal that all councillors would take a five percent cut to their allowances and opt out of a previously agreed pay increase for the year. Cllr Scott also asked that a Members Allowances Independent Panel be set up to consider allowances for the next financial year (2024/25).
After all members of the committee but Cllr Taylor voted in favour of the proposals, they will be taken to tomorrow’s full council meeting where the votes will be carried out.
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