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Labour councillors give themselves a ‘gravy train’ pay rise in Tower Hamlets Council’s first vote after landslide election

PUBLISHED: 13:49 24 May 2018 | UPDATED: 15:04 25 May 2018

Labour's front benches at Tower Hamlets Council who voted for the pay rise. Picture: Mike Brooke

Labour's front benches at Tower Hamlets Council who voted for the pay rise. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Labour councillors voted themselves a 70 per cent “big fat pay rise” for cabinet posts as their first act in power at last night’s Tower Hamlets Council meeting after their landslide victory at the May 3 polls.

Caz Harrison and her two-year-old daughter at Town Hall protest by 'Save Our Nurseries' campaigners while councillors vote themselves a pay rise. Picture: Mike BrookeCaz Harrison and her two-year-old daughter at Town Hall protest by 'Save Our Nurseries' campaigners while councillors vote themselves a pay rise. Picture: Mike Brooke

Small demos outside the town hall by mums campaigning to stop nurseries being privatised and by trade unions condemning the “gravy train” increase while workers under 21 were not getting a living wage failed to persuade them to vote against.

The ‘special responsibility’ allowances would now take £375,000 a year out of the public purse—a third more than before the elections.

The deputy mayors’ £16,000 allowance shoots up to £30,000 a year while eight cabinet members’ pay goes from £14,000 to £20,000.

A new payment of £11,000 for Labour’s chief whip had brought condemnation from People’s Alliance opposition Cllr Rabina Khan as it was “not a public function” which would add to the £1m bill for councillors taxpayers over the coming four years.

Cllr Rabina Khan, one of three opposition voices, telling Labour... You pay yourself this nice big fat rise when young people are paid below minimum. Picture: Mike BrookeCllr Rabina Khan, one of three opposition voices, telling Labour... You pay yourself this nice big fat rise when young people are paid below minimum. Picture: Mike Brooke

“What about a pay increase for social workers who deliver our public services in the community?” she demanded.

“You can decide to pay yourself this nice big fat pay rise or to work with the unions so that it reflects the people who voted for you.”

It was “discourteous”, she felt, for Labour to vote themselves bigger allowances when young people were paid below minimum wage, when the elderly were denied adult social care and when the vulnerable were being sent to foodbanks.

But she was rounded on by Labour’s angry John Peace slamming her for double standards over payments to dodgy organisations from public coffers when she was part of Lutfur Rahman’s now-banned administration ousted in 2015.

Mayor John Biggs... Mayor John Biggs... "Councillors now more active that a bunch of elderly gentlemen in the 1940s nodding through a few reports. Picture: Mike Brooke

He asked: “Where was Cllr Khan when Rahman was handing out hundreds of thousands to new groups being set up and given community buildings? Where was she when there were plans to out-source council services to a private company? Where was Rabina Khan’s concerns then?”

The rises were still less than those for other local authorities such as neighbouring Hackney and Newham at £34,000, Islington’s £29,000 or Southwark’s £35,000, Labour pointed out. Committee chairs would also get no rise, staying at £6,000 to £11,000.

Labour Mayor John Biggs, whose £73,000 allowance stays the same, pointed to responsibilities his cabinet members now faced compared to the last century.

He recalled “a bunch of elderly gentlemen in the 1930s and 40s would turn up and nod through a few reports”, while today council members put aside two or three days a week for local authority activity which made them less employable.

Unite trade union protesters against Tower Hamlets Labour councillors getting Unite trade union protesters against Tower Hamlets Labour councillors getting "money to shut up" greet opposition Cllr Rabina Khan arriivng at the town hall. Picture: Mike Brooke

But Andrew Wood, now taking the reins as leader of the two-man Tory group, said later: “The workload doesn’t reflect the money cabinet members are now getting—I did 60 hours last year for £8,000 which I think is way too expensive.

“I was shocked when I heard the first thing Labour was doing after the election was increasing their allowances. Voters didn’t know about this.”

The rises were condemned last night by the public workers’ union Unite which claims leisure centre staff under 21 aren’t even getting the minimum £10.20-an-hour London Living Wage.

Union regional officer Onay Kasab told the East London Advertiser: “The pay rises bring in some councillors to make the big decisions and sideline backbenchers, throwing gold at them saying ‘there’s some money now shut up’.

“We should go back to a generation ago when people became councillors because they wanted to serve the community.”

The GMB union had also condemned the “gravy train” pay rises for councillors who “are in it for the money sitting around the trough stuffing gold bars in their mouths”.

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