Mo’ money councillors

Many staff working for South Tyneside Council have not seen a pay rise in years, and seeing their incomes eroded by inflation.  They are all in fear of their pensions being junked by a government that treats public sector workers with contempt.  After reductions in staff levels due to budget cuts, many of those staff are expected to take the strain.

In other words, council staff are expected to do more, and get less in return.  It’s a Victorian mill-owner’s dream.

However, the same hard knocks rules of the current employment environment don’t seem to apply to South Tyneside Council’s senior councillors.  As reported in the Shields Gazette yesterday, cabinet members will enjoy increases of around 19.7 per cent, and Community Area Forum chairs an increase of around 20.8 per cent.

This beautiful example of double standards comes from a Labour council.  If this was the management board of a major company which had frozen employees’ salaries, unions and Labour MPs would unite in condemnation of boardroom rank self interest.  Don’t expect them to be critical of South Tyneside Council any time soon.

It’s pretty lame of South Tyneside Council to excuse this increase in individual allowances on the claim that the overall allowances budget had not increased.  If savings had been made, those savings could have been passed on to another budget area sorely in need of cash.

I don’t have an issue with councillors being paid for their time.  I used to defend councillors against the often made claim that ‘they’re just in it for themselves’.  I believe that without recompense for their time, democracy would suffer; councils would be stuffed with even more of the retired and the self-employed.

Earlier on this week Jarrow and Hebburn MP Stephen Hepburn criticised the government for being out of touch.  Perhaps he and David Miliband could have a word with South Tyneside Council’s out of touch leadership and tell them that by featherbedding themselves they are further eroding people’s confidence in politicians.

You can’t help but question the ethical compass of a senior executive team which enjoys fat cat style rises, whilst the rest of the workforce, the ordinary hard working people who keep the machinery of local government moving, are persevering on devalued incomes and facing scapegoating from the right.

I thought solidarity with the workers was a core Labour value.  Such ethical values look like a thing of the past in South Tyneside Labour Party, replaced by a cheap Thatcherite grab-while-you-can.

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