Yesterday we had another Full Council meeting.
This was the Agenda:
- Declarations of Interest
- Urgent matters
- Chair’s Diary
- Arrangement’s for the election of Chair and Vice Chair
- Independent Remuneration Panel For Wales Report
- Member training and development
- Pay Policy Statement
- Notice of Motion
- Council Forward Work Programme
We were there for the best part of 3 hours (I’ll never get those three hours back!). It looks like a full agenda, but 1-5 are procedural. Agenda item 6 was internal bureaucracy in order to avoid any embarrassment when the actual voting in of the new Vice-Chair is done at the Annual meeting (which will be held next month). Agenda item 7 was essentially there for information only – the Council is legally expected to accept the report. Item 8 was internal issues to do with our own training, and really didn’t need to be discussed at Full Council at all. 9 was, again, a legal document which we were expected to accept.
The only real ‘politics’ came at the end, when Plaid Cymru proposed a motion to condemn the decision by Coleg Llandrillo-Menai to close their campus in Denbigh.
Nevertheless I and my colleagues did what we could to raise important issues – issues which are important to you, our electors.
I mentioned that Agenda Item 7 was there for information only, because the Council are legally expected to accept it, which is true. The paper was a recommendation by the Independent Remuneration Panel that Councillors pay should increase by £200 a year, to £13,600.
Even though the Council can’t refuse it, I put forward a motion saying that we should note the recommendation but that we should as a Council vote to reject it. I’ll once again be donating my increase to a local good cause.
Other Councillors – notably Labour – argued that there was nothing that we could do about it because we couldn’t refuse it, and that we should let the Independent Remuneration panel do their job.
I’m afraid that’s a mealy-mouthed excuse. Someone must make a stand and show leadership.
Denbighshire County Council took a real terms cut of several millions of pounds last year thanks to the Welsh Government’s poor settlement. Consequently the Council has made a number of people redundant, and has terminated some services. Next year is looking to be far worse, financially. We might be looking at cutting front-line services. We have less and less money, but the demands are ever increasing.
At the same time we have 1,300 staff working for the Council earning less that the Real Living Wage – struggling to make ends meet, and going to Foodbanks etc In this context, is it right that we are seen to be taking more money for our own allowances?!
No. I couldn’t accept that. I think it’s morally wrong, and we should show solidarity and sympathy to the workers of the Council and more especially to you, the taxpayers who pay hard earned money in Council tax and expect a good service from the Council. I understand the concern that we need to pay our Councillors a decent wage or else risk finding ourselves in a position where only wealthy individuals can put their names forward for public office. That’s a justifiable concern. But the current allowance and work hours for a Councillor is just a facade – as things stand the majority of Councillors are retirees or self-employed people who can juggle their hours of work. A working single parent would find it nigh-on impossible to be a Councillor today, and that’s not right. I’m lucky because I have an employer who’s willing to be flexible and a family network supporting me 100%. So the ‘fair-pay’ argument is a nonsense. In my view the pay should be doubled and the Councillors halved. For that the electors should expect a specific service from us, while at the same time Community Councils should be given greater powers and budgets. But that’s just my own view.
So I proposed that Denbighshire Council refused the increase, and stand up to the Labour Welsh Government and tell them that it wasn’t right that they cut our funding, expect us to cut our services, yet ask us to take more pay.
Sadly my proposal was voted down by all of the other groups – Conservatives, Labour and Independents.
Then we had the paper on the Pay Policy for the Council staff.
Last year I proposed that we refuse the Policy because it perpetuated a structure which meant that a quarter of the Council’s staff were receiving less than the Real Living Wage. I argued that Denbighshire Council should move towards becoming a Real Living Wage Employer, treating our staff with dignity and respect. Since then I and my group colleagues have been working hard with Union representatives, local charities, the Real Living Wage Foundation and others to find a way of pushing this through.
In February the Labour Group decided to support our stance and put their own motion forward, which we fully supported. The good news is that following the UK wide drive by individuals, charities, unions and others to ensure that Councils become Real Living Wage Employers an agreement has be drawn up across Wales, England and Northern Ireland which will see the lowest paid wage rise to £8.50 p/h this year and £9 p/h next year. Given that we expect to see inflation at around 3% this should mean that our lowest paid should be earning a Real Living Wage next year. As well as this the lowest pay points will be scrapped, and differentials respected. It’s not ideal, but it shows us moving in the right direction.
Consequently, and also given that both the GMB and Unison had accepted these terms, we decided that we should support the proposed pay model while also knowing that a paper on the Real Living Wage is expected to come in front of us before the end of the year.
This will directly benefit 1,300 members of the Council’s staff – the vast majority of them (900+) women. Some of these people I know. Some live in my ward. They are Denbighshire people who contribute to the local economy and make our communities wealthier, not just economically but culturally and socially. This is why we need to respect them – respect you. This is the true meaning of us all being in this together – helping our neighbours and communities out.
This is what I try to do as your Councillor on a day-to-day basis.
Finally Cllr. Gwyneth Kensler, Denbigh Central, should be thanked for putting forward a successful motion to criticise the decision to close Denbigh College, a deplorable decision which will hit pupils at Ysgol Plas Brondyffryn as well.
Yes, it can be frustrating at times, it’s you the people of Cynwyd and Llandrillo, my family, neighbours and friends who’s always at the forefront of everything I do.
Thank you for your continued support.