Wiltshire Council slammed for setting Christmas Eve showdown meeting

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Cllr Ernie Clark Cllr Ernie Clark

Wiltshire Council has been slammed for scheduling an extraordinary meeting to discuss the controversial members’ allowance increases for Christmas Eve.

The Independent Political Group contacted the council’s chairman, Wiltshire Councillor Christine Crisp, with the request.

The meeting is due to take place at County Hall, in Trowbridge, at 9.30am, on Tuesday when the venue was due to be closed and council staff were supposed to be on holiday.

Jeff Osborn, Wiltshire councillor from the Independent Political Group, said: “I must say that I am extremely surprised the council are saying that a decision has been made to call the meeting for Christmas Eve, especially as I understood that County Hall was officially closed on that day and staff will have to be brought in at considerable inconvenience."

“At this time of year, the staff have got other things on their minds and I thought we would sit and have a sensible discussion and hold it on an appropriate date.”

The Independents believe that Wiltshire Council has been unconstitutional making the meeting public because they were yet to receive the five councillors’ signatures necessary to call an extraordinary meeting.

The group had looked to hold the meeting as they oppose Wiltshire Council’s decision, made during November’s full council meeting, which has seen Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott’s allowances increase by 36.5 per cent a year, taking them from £37,335 to £52,227.

Cabinet members’ allowances have increased by at least 22 per cent, rising from £15,101 to £18,433 a year, while councillors’ basic allowances has gone up by one per cent to £12,289 a year.

Wiltshire Councillor Ernie Clark, Independent Political Group leader, said: “This was always something we were looking to hold in the new year and never to the detriment of council staff who’d been given a holiday and may have made arrangements.”

The group still want the meeting to be held but on a different date in the new year. Under their constitution, for Wiltshire Council to overturn a decision made within the last six months and have it debated during an extraordinary meeting at least 10 councillors’ signatures are needed.

The allowance increase was proposed by the council’s Independent Remuneration Panel and was accepted following a recorded vote at the November meeting. A total of 53 councillors voted for the proposals, 28 were against and two abstained.

Last week, Cllr Scott finally agreed to be interviewed about the allowance increase after refusing to answer questions on the subject for over a month.

“We are working in a more efficient way, but that does put an awful lot of pressure on all of us, both members and officers in the organisation, to deliver,” she said.

“They (the remuneration panel) wanted to make it right, not for me, but for the people who come after me.”

During the summer, the council ran a voluntary redundancy programme in which 252 front-line staff decided to leave the organisation.

While, seven of the council's 18 associate directors took voluntary redundancy, while the remaining associate directors saw their wages rise on average by 7.5 per cent.

After the council agreed to the allowance increase outraged tax payer Paul Gaunt set-up a petition calling for Cllr Scott and her cabinet to resign. This has received over 2,500 signatures.

The allowance increase has also been slammed by Brandon Lewis, minister for local Government, who said they weren’t justified in the current economic climate.

To view the petition visit www.wehavesolutions.co.uk.

Comments (13)

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10:39am Tue 17 Dec 13

Locksmith says...

Why on earth are Council staff given Christmas Eve off anyway? Christmas Eve is a normal working day for the majority of people, some employers then let all but a skeleton staff go home around lunch time. So basically, the business comes first. In the same way, for council business, the council tax payers should come first. If Wiltshire council started behaving and managing its staff in an up to date way, county hall would be open for business on Christmas eve and this meeting would go ahead as it should do.
Why on earth are Council staff given Christmas Eve off anyway? Christmas Eve is a normal working day for the majority of people, some employers then let all but a skeleton staff go home around lunch time. So basically, the business comes first. In the same way, for council business, the council tax payers should come first. If Wiltshire council started behaving and managing its staff in an up to date way, county hall would be open for business on Christmas eve and this meeting would go ahead as it should do. Locksmith

1:23pm Tue 17 Dec 13

MDP says...

Whatever is going on? Is Jane Scott hoping that very few councillors will be able to attend, so that the required number of signatures/votes cannot be achieved? All this is so cloak and dagger, and makes one even more apprehensive about whether these people can be trusted to spend our hard-earned council tax money. Presumably, if County Hall was supposed to be closed on Christmas Eve, there will be a large bill for overtime in order to get staff in to work. Really, it beggars belief.
I sense an air of panic, and wonder if that might perhaps be good news for us signatories.
Whatever is going on? Is Jane Scott hoping that very few councillors will be able to attend, so that the required number of signatures/votes cannot be achieved? All this is so cloak and dagger, and makes one even more apprehensive about whether these people can be trusted to spend our hard-earned council tax money. Presumably, if County Hall was supposed to be closed on Christmas Eve, there will be a large bill for overtime in order to get staff in to work. Really, it beggars belief. I sense an air of panic, and wonder if that might perhaps be good news for us signatories. MDP

5:42pm Tue 17 Dec 13

Municipal says...

The decision by Wiltshire Council, otherwise known as the great leaders plaything, to hold an extraordinary meeting of the council without agreeing the necessary arrangement with those who have called for the meeting must almost be without precedent.
In fact, it is normal practice to ensure that sufficient time is available to ensure that all those that both oppose and support a course of action have sufficient time to prepare for such an important meeting.
The proposal of the independent group to hold the meeting in the new year is therefor entirely sensible.
A small delay might give those members who voted for the new allowances to think again, and follow a more appropriate course of action.
Talking of taking a different course of action , the idea of a pleasant chat before the next council meeting as suggested by the leader of the lib dems illustrates a lack of understanding about how Local Government and politics actually work. in practice.
The decision by Wiltshire Council, otherwise known as the great leaders plaything, to hold an extraordinary meeting of the council without agreeing the necessary arrangement with those who have called for the meeting must almost be without precedent. In fact, it is normal practice to ensure that sufficient time is available to ensure that all those that both oppose and support a course of action have sufficient time to prepare for such an important meeting. The proposal of the independent group to hold the meeting in the new year is therefor entirely sensible. A small delay might give those members who voted for the new allowances to think again, and follow a more appropriate course of action. Talking of taking a different course of action , the idea of a pleasant chat before the next council meeting as suggested by the leader of the lib dems illustrates a lack of understanding about how Local Government and politics actually work. in practice. Municipal

8:09pm Tue 17 Dec 13

Yer Tis says...

Oh look.

On the same day the councils who have awarded themselves between 22 and 36,5% rises, have informed us they are making 12 people redundant.

Maybe, just Maybe WE shoud make some of the Councillors redundant and compress their hours, Oh yes for the same wage!
Oh look. On the same day the councils who have awarded themselves between 22 and 36,5% rises, have informed us they are making 12 people redundant. Maybe, just Maybe WE shoud make some of the Councillors redundant and compress their hours, Oh yes for the same wage! Yer Tis

3:26pm Wed 18 Dec 13

Man of Wiltshire says...

Why is nothing being said about the Leader of the Lib Dems recieving his £26.000 per year, its only the Independents that seem to be worry about the hardworking residents of Wiltshire shame on the Conservatives and Jon Hubbard and his Lib Dems
Why is nothing being said about the Leader of the Lib Dems recieving his £26.000 per year, its only the Independents that seem to be worry about the hardworking residents of Wiltshire shame on the Conservatives and Jon Hubbard and his Lib Dems Man of Wiltshire

3:47pm Wed 18 Dec 13

Pirate11 says...

Man of Wiltshire, I gave my 1% increase in allowances to a local charity, having voted against the increases, so not all Conservatives voted for the increases in allowances! Cllr Mark Connolly
Man of Wiltshire, I gave my 1% increase in allowances to a local charity, having voted against the increases, so not all Conservatives voted for the increases in allowances! Cllr Mark Connolly Pirate11

5:57pm Wed 18 Dec 13

Municipal says...

The issue which must be addressed is the way in which Wiltshire council is being governed. The leader has taken upon herself the role of being both the Chairman and Chief Executive of the organisation.
This is not a good model of governance in the private sector let alone in a local authority

Government advice to new councilors states:

The relationship between the elected leader of the
council and its appointed chief executive is the most
important one in local government and has a
profound effect on the council’s performance.
Officers are employed to manage the council and to
help councillors achieve their policy goals. But officers
may have to advise councillors from time to time that
certain courses of action cannot be carried out.
Officers have a duty to give unbiased professional
advice – even if it is not what councillors want to hear.

It is not the role of Councilors to manage the organisation. That is the responsibility of the officers.

If the Council were managed in a way which respected the proper role of Council officers and in particular that of Chief Executive then it would not be necessary to consider significantly increasing members allowances.

If the Council needs to make further significant savings, then these should be focused on back office costs rather than front line services. To that end, why not join forces with Dorset and have an officer management structure which provides services for both Councils.
The issue which must be addressed is the way in which Wiltshire council is being governed. The leader has taken upon herself the role of being both the Chairman and Chief Executive of the organisation. This is not a good model of governance in the private sector let alone in a local authority Government advice to new councilors states: The relationship between the elected leader of the council and its appointed chief executive is the most important one in local government and has a profound effect on the council’s performance. Officers are employed to manage the council and to help councillors achieve their policy goals. But officers may have to advise councillors from time to time that certain courses of action cannot be carried out. Officers have a duty to give unbiased professional advice – even if it is not what councillors want to hear. It is not the role of Councilors to manage the organisation. That is the responsibility of the officers. If the Council were managed in a way which respected the proper role of Council officers and in particular that of Chief Executive then it would not be necessary to consider significantly increasing members allowances. If the Council needs to make further significant savings, then these should be focused on back office costs rather than front line services. To that end, why not join forces with Dorset and have an officer management structure which provides services for both Councils. Municipal

8:56pm Thu 19 Dec 13

shed says...

Ignore the link given in the article

sign here if you have not already done so

http://you.38degrees .org.uk/petitions/re signation-of-leader- and-cabinet-of-wilts hire-council
Ignore the link given in the article sign here if you have not already done so http://you.38degrees .org.uk/petitions/re signation-of-leader- and-cabinet-of-wilts hire-council shed

3:41pm Fri 20 Dec 13

brandx says...

Regarding the Christmas Eve date imposed to debate the Independents' proposal to scrap the increase in Members' Allowances, it looks as if the dirty tricks political brigade were at work. No amount of trickery willo make this issue of greedy councillors go away. It will be there in the New Year.

Tuesday 4th February is now the agreed date for the proposal to scrap those Allowance increases and for the petition to be presented. Make sure you and all good minded people have signed the petition and try to get to County Hall, Trowbridge.
Regarding the Christmas Eve date imposed to debate the Independents' proposal to scrap the increase in Members' Allowances, it looks as if the dirty tricks political brigade were at work. No amount of trickery willo make this issue of greedy councillors go away. It will be there in the New Year. Tuesday 4th February is now the agreed date for the proposal to scrap those Allowance increases and for the petition to be presented. Make sure you and all good minded people have signed the petition and try to get to County Hall, Trowbridge. brandx

5:59pm Fri 20 Dec 13

MDP says...

Thank you brandx for that bit of info, we should be getting this sort of news from the Gazette but they seem strangely reluctant to keep us up to date. This is one of the biggest stories that they (should) have had to cover, and they have failed singularly.
Come on Gary Lawrence (if you are still Editor, have not looked at masthead recently), please will you give this issue the space and the prominence it deserves?
Thank you brandx for that bit of info, we should be getting this sort of news from the Gazette but they seem strangely reluctant to keep us up to date. This is one of the biggest stories that they (should) have had to cover, and they have failed singularly. Come on Gary Lawrence (if you are still Editor, have not looked at masthead recently), please will you give this issue the space and the prominence it deserves? MDP

9:04pm Fri 20 Dec 13

Hardens says...

The link seems to be getting corrupted, try this... https://you.38degree
s.org.uk/petitions/r
esignation-of-leader
-and-cabinet-of-wilt
shire-council
The link seems to be getting corrupted, try this... https://you.38degree s.org.uk/petitions/r esignation-of-leader -and-cabinet-of-wilt shire-council Hardens

3:12pm Mon 23 Dec 13

brandx says...

The same Wiltshire councillors who are sacking the bin men - and doubtless other staff - in the New Year, have as the leader and Cabinet, just voted themselves massive increases in their allowances. And to add insult to injury they have arranged to have them back dated to last May.

Are these the sort of people we want running Wiltshire?

Please urge all good ordinary folk to sign the petition.

I just hope all the opposition groups on Wiltshire Council - Labour, Lib Dem, Independents and UKIP - have enough sense to work together on this one over riding issue. We know who most of the Tory councillors will support - but at least two of them showed some humanity. Keep the pressure on and others might just realise that ordinary folk are important. We might just isolate enough Tories from the fat cat Cabinet.
The same Wiltshire councillors who are sacking the bin men - and doubtless other staff - in the New Year, have as the leader and Cabinet, just voted themselves massive increases in their allowances. And to add insult to injury they have arranged to have them back dated to last May. Are these the sort of people we want running Wiltshire? Please urge all good ordinary folk to sign the petition. I just hope all the opposition groups on Wiltshire Council - Labour, Lib Dem, Independents and UKIP - have enough sense to work together on this one over riding issue. We know who most of the Tory councillors will support - but at least two of them showed some humanity. Keep the pressure on and others might just realise that ordinary folk are important. We might just isolate enough Tories from the fat cat Cabinet. brandx

3:21pm Mon 23 Dec 13

MDP says...

Wiltshire Council has made it into the 'Rotten Boroughs' section of Private Eye, hooray, well done Jane Scott, that is quite some achievement.
Wiltshire Council has made it into the 'Rotten Boroughs' section of Private Eye, hooray, well done Jane Scott, that is quite some achievement. MDP

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