Tonight, your local Labour Group on Walsall Council had the opportunity to vote against massive allowance increases for cabinet members and Council Leader Mike Bird. Walsall, you’ll recall, is currently a Tory-Liberal coalition, with three independents holding sway after being Tory for about a decade.
The Tories, naturally, voted for the motion to increase their leader’s pay. The Lib Dems, in power with the Tories, supported by independent Pete Smith, voted against the raise, pointing out that it was morally untenable.
Labour councillors, to a man and woman, abstained from voting. That meant the motion was carried. Labour councillors like Brownhills’ own Barbara Cassidy abstained, knowing full well this meant a rise to around 28k in Mike Bird’s personal allowance, in a year that will see Council Tax benefit to pensioners cut and services decimated.
Labour had failed to table an alternative motion or amendment, and feared they would lose their allowances from April if they voted against.
Fellow Walsall blogger Aiden MacHaffie has written a truly seeding account the meeting. It’s a shameful tale, but wonderfully written.
In the coming months, your services, street pride, education, social care – itself already in some kind of disaster mode – will see savage cuts, overseen by men and women awarded a pay rise because their political opponents had not the moral fibre to stand up for what was right.
Walsall Labour: Next time they’re wringing their collective hands, or you hear of Barbara or Steve are bemoaning Tory cuts, think of their group’s behaviour tonight.
Labour’s constituents – some of the poorest people in the borough – are teetering on the brink while their councillors prevaricate, talk technicalities and fail to grow a functioning set of balls. Those people were relying on Labour tonight to make a stand morally, socially and politically. Their party failed them.
What Walsall’s Labour group actually achieved in the chamber this evening was unthinkable: They made the Liberal Democrats and arch politician and independent Pete Smith look like principled champions of the people – the irony of which being that Ian Shires, leader of the Liberal Democrats, will benefit from the rise he voted against.
Walsall Labour Party – you are a disgrace to socialism and I am thoroughly disgusted. I will never, ever vote for you again as long as you have a weak, ineffective leadership that cannot see the moral issue in this for what it is.
Can’t wait for the opportunity to vote the grasping buggers out? Best be patient on that score. No elections this year, which may explain Bird’s expert political chicanery. Austerity is for us, not them.
This afternoon, Walsall Labour Party issued this press statement, read it through and see if you can work out what the hell went wrong, because I can’t:
2013-01-07 – Labour pledges to oppose ‘grotesque’ cabinet pay rise.
Walsall Labour’s 28 councillors will again oppose a proposed increase in cabinet allowances being recommended at Monday night’s full council meeting.
The proposal could see Leader of the council’s pay rise by £4494 to £26,850, the deputy leader’s pay increase by £9,232 to £17,534 while other cabinet members could receive an additional £5,123 a year.
Labour will oppose the increases arguing the cabinet has failed to deliver basic services such as child protection and decent education.
Labour councillors fear the Tory/Lib Dem cabinet which runs Walsall will exploit no elections this year to push through the £55,000 increase which has repeatedly been blocked in the past by a combination of Labour and voter opposition.
Labour group leader, Cllr Tim Oliver, said: “In a period when the authority is cutting frontline services by £13 million and sacking staff, any such increase would be grotesque and shows how out of touch the Tories and Lib Dems are. ”
“It comes despite the fact that Walsall council has one of the poorest records in the country for educational attainment and child protection.
“Since 2010 the Tories have considered putting forward this proposal on two separate occasions and each time they’ve reluctantly backed down after opposition from Labour members and fears that would be punished by the voters at the polls.
“But this year, with no elections, we fear the cabinet will try to push through the rise.
Councillors are also highly critical of the way the report containing the recommendations is being presented to the council. If members reject it in its entirety, all 60 councillors would have their allowances stopped being paid from April.
Cllr Oliver added: “Clearly there is an element of trying to limit the options open to councillors opposed to this move. Despite that, we will again oppose the recommendations pointing out that in contrast a Labour council in Walsall would last year have streamlined and reduced the overall councillor wage bill by £50,000 to £100,000 – as did other Labour run councils such as Birmingham. Unfortunately we fell just one vote short, due to the lack of support from the three Independent councillors.”