Friday, 21 October 2011

Do you deserve 25% more?

I've been away for a bit. Frankly, i've been trying to figure out how to shave pennies and pounds off of my budgets and trying to help son through the first half term of school. There are lots of things I could have done with 25% more of. Time. There is never enough of it. Somehow the hours between 6-8 am and 4-7 pm vanish in a haze of , in the morning, shouting "Come ON! Get UP! Eat THIS! Get DRESSED!", and in the evening, of urging a tired boy to eat something, read something, go to bed.

Money. Of course, money. Imagine what an extra 25% of your current income could buy. I'm ok for food, mostly, but there are no savings in this household, merely a complex system of robbing Peter to pay Paul. And extra 25% would allow me to put by for the kids, pay off debts, inch back towards the black. Buy the kids shoes without panicking that both of them need them at once. 25% more petrol: more family visits, more friend visits. Heck, just ONE friend visit. I was mortified earlier this month to naysay a trip to London, but as it would have cost nigh on 2 weeks worth of shopping, I just could not do it.
25% is a LOT.
A 25% increase in wages, in anyones' book, is like a dream for most, unless you are a banker. Or, as it turns out, a Cambridgeshire County Councillor. This week, they universally voted, with a few notable exceptions (Steve Tierney, a Conservative who has the odd flash of conscience and a few Lib Dems trying to look as if they were still independent of their masters), to increase their pay allowance by 25%. And on top of this, the expenses, the allowances (SRA's: special Responsibility Allowances, can amount to thousands and thousands more per year, and not all the "responsibilities" are ones you or I would recognise as being useful. How useful, exactly, is a memeber with responsibility for the environment who actively promotes a huge out of town Tesco?) and extras also go up by 25%. This at the same time as public sector workers in Cambridgeshire face pay freezes, cuts and job losses (450 and counting). There are cuts to the police, the fire service (whole stations going), the buses, the provision of elderly and juvenile care. Librarians replaced by machines, if you are lucky and haven't lost your library altogether. The total amount spent on allowances will shoot up by £166,000 to £929,000. Just imagine what that increase could have done to the cuts. Made them far less "necessary" for starters.
Of course, the Conservative stalwarts are edging out and sneering that if you "pay peanuts you get monkeys", neatly leaving aside the fact that if you pay them, you get totally self seeking shits. Fenland Leader, the Bunter-like Alan Melton, gave a hilarious speech in which he bemoaned the fact that without these raises, as in the past, apparently, the Council would be full of "teachers using days off, and unionists", as opposed, presumably, to the fat pigs at the trough we now get. We all know how evil teachers are..... He is not worried about the letter writers and tweeters apparently. Here is his speech, in part, in blue, naturally.
“I will vote in favour and I am not worried about the plethora of letter writers going to appear in Cambridgeshire Times next week,” he said.
“Neither am I concerned about the vociferous and anonymous tweeters without the guts to stand up and say what they think to your face.
“The people I will answer to are my electorate and as I long as they are satisfied I am doing a good job I will continue to stand. I’m proud of my record and I can stand by that record.”
Cllr Melton said he had been a councillor for 30 years, had won 13 elections and “yes I draw from the public purse. I have never tried to hide that and I am totally open and transparent.”
I'm not anonymous, Alan. Come see me and explain your worth.

Ah, Alan. Poor Alan. So poverty stricken that he apparently has to rely on his wifes' wage to survive. I suppose it must take quite a bit to pay for all those extensions to his house, but there was me assuming that the average Council Leaders wage was liveable on. I've tried to pinpoint exactly how much Mr Melton bags pa., but it seems strangely difficult to get hold of the information. Some council leaders bag upwards of 250K pa, others 80K. I've heard whispers of around 139K in this instance, which hardly means he is reduced to eating dog biscuits. If he's having to ask his wife for money, what is he spending it on? Land buying, so he's ready for all the development he's planning, presumably. Or maybe just pies.

Either way, what seems apparent here is not just that the Council are woefully out of step with what the ordinary members of the UK are suffering, but that they don't actually care. Any Council with a teeny tiny modicum of common sense might have delayed any pay rise until, say, they weren't suffering some of the highest unemployment levels or food price rises in 15 years. Any Council with any sense might have thought twice about moaning in public about how dreadfully off the poor councillors are. Whilst laying off more council workers.

What's also a real point here in Fenland is that it shows just how complacent the Conservative stranglehold is. They know full well that they can do anything they bloody well please. And now with the pay award, they'll be the only ones with any money to print off any election leaflets, pay hustings and so on. What is equally pathetic is how Labour have done precisely nothing. They make no effort to field candidates, they don't make mileage out of the sheer crassness of their opposistion, nothing, nada. They have given us up to die. Sacrificed us to Melton, the piemaker of Fenland.

And what is sad is that it can be done differently. Islington Council, never a terribly poor Council, has undertaken to pay a fair wage. It's highest paid worker will never be paid more than 10 times the wage of its' lowest. Furthermore, it's undertaken to pay a living wage to the lowest paid of £8.30 per hour.

If you live locally, or even if you don't, a petition is available from Saturday to protest against this rise. Please do sign it.


County Councillor Tariq Sadiq said...

I enjoyed reading your blog entry; however, you forgot to mention that the three Labour County Councillors also voted against the allowances increase and I spoke strongly against it in the Council Chamber.

It's also wrong to say that Labour does not put up candidates. There were Labour candidates standing in every single County division in 2009, the most recent County elections, including against Alan Melton. The results are here:

We also had candidates in most of the District Council seats in 2011 as shown here:

You can find details of Fenland District Councillors' Allowances to March 2011,including Alan Melton's, here:

Labour would love to have candidates standing in every seat in every election (although I don'think any party ever manages to do this) but the party is run by volunteers and we do need more people to stand as Labour candidates and to help with canvassing, leafleting and campaigning. If any Labour Party member is interested in being a candidate or helping you can find out more at

Locally you can get in touch with NE Cambs Labour:

County Councillor Tariq Sadiq
Labour (Coleridge)

Fenwitters said...

Thanks for the comments Sadiq, you are right to point out that Labour Councillors did indeed vote against the raise. There are also Labour candidates. In the general election I had that choice, it's just that locally I do not with regard to Chatteris. I will certainly be offering to help Labour in advance of the next tranch of elections, and once the kids are both at school I may even stand myself. I am often sorry that Fenlands history of Liberalism has been forgotten under a blue onslaught. Time to remind people of it, I think. The allowances link is very interesting. Hardly breadline, I think, especially when one considers that the average income in Fenland is amongst some of the lowest in the UK. Please do add my email address to any of your mailings, i'd like to see what you are up to!

County Councillor Tariq Sadiq said...

Your help would be very welcome!

I'm on twitter @tariqsadiq and we generally put updates on our local blog
which also links to our Facebook page, but most of this is Cambridge and ward based. Hopefully, with a lot of hard work we might get a few more Labour district and County councillors in Cambs over the next few years.

best wishes,

Fenwitters said...

Oh, I wish you would! Fenland is wholly without variety in terms of Councillors (once I would have said that LibDems were variety, but no more....) And yet I don't feel that the fight is not worth fighting. I am left-wing, and many younger people I speak to feel the same way. It's the apathy, the not voting that you need to overcome. I am not twittered, but i'll keep a weather eye. It is nice to see a councillor responding. On the Chatteris "Shape your Place" only a few have ever raised their heads above the parapet, inevitably to defend their actions.