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Letter: Why Should We Expect Our Councillors to Work For Free?

Published on: 30 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 28 Aug, 2021

From Adam Aaronson

Isn’t it about time the system of councillors’ remuneration was addressed?

The basic annual salary of a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons is £81,000. In addition, MPs are able to claim allowances to cover the costs of running an office and employing staff, typically in the region of £20-50,000.

The basic annual salary of a borough councillor is zero. But councillors do receive an annual allowance to cover expenses. The basic allowance at GBC is £7,405 but further allowances are added for extra responsibilities [See: GBC Councillor Allowances Scheme for details. Dependants’ carers’ and travel and subsistence allowances can also be claimed.]

Yet there’s a public perception that councillors should be working as hard as MPs and, irrespective of their political persuasion, when things go wrong, people blame councillors.

If we expect just as much from our councillors as we do from our MPs, why do we expect them to work for free?

See also a 2012 article partly written by the late Bernard Parke, Alderman and former Mayor of Guildford: Open Debate: Should We Pay Our Councillors?

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Responses to Letter: Why Should We Expect Our Councillors to Work For Free?

  1. Caroline Perkins Reply

    August 30, 2021 at 11:01 am

    As they have no political commitment, Independents do the job not because they are part of a political party (and therefore must toe the party line), Independents serve the area they represent and usually with a high degree of passion and enthusiasm. I have been very impressed by our new Independent group R4GV.

    Whilst the representatives of political parties from the top down have been busy mud slinging and insulting people, R4GV have just been quietly getting on with what really matters which is just what they were elected to do.

    They certainly aren’t doing it for for the money.

    The disparity between an MP’s and a borough councillor’s salary isn’t justified. That’s my opinion anyway.

    • David Roberts Reply

      August 30, 2021 at 7:16 pm

      Both R4GV and the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) are political parties registered with the Electoral Commission and, in my view, stronger for it. The key difference (even with supposed outsiders like The Green Party) is that they are local, not national, parties. It is a myth that they are just a bunch of “Independents”, although in R4GV’s case their ideological thrust is hard to discern. GGG’s is much clearer.

      Salaries for MPs were discussed for over a century before they were first paid, just over a hundred years ago. Introducing salaries for councillors could have the same effect of encouraging greater professionalism, seriousness and diversity of representation, while discouraging the “gravy-train” temptation to maximise one’s benefits through nepotism, expenses claims, accepting hospitality and accruing allowances from multiple council roles.

      It would tell councillors once and for all that they are bog-standard public servants fully subject to the Nolan Principles and not some kind of minor deity.

      On the other hand, salaries would need to be paid for and could promote the sort of careerism that now sees so many unrepresentative SPADs (special advisers) becoming first MPs and then Lords.

  2. John Perkins Reply

    August 30, 2021 at 11:21 pm

    Perhaps because it might attract those who only value money.

    • Adam Aaronson Reply

      September 2, 2021 at 7:24 am

      Mr Perkins could be correct. But at the moment there isn’t a level playing field. Under the current system, the reality is that a councillor needs to be financially independent. That de facto requirement is bound to exclude some capable candidates, who couldn’t afford to take on the role.

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