Councillors and aldermen could be paid for the first time in the City of London’s history as members consider the introduction of a £1.5million remuneration scheme for elected officials.
The City of London is one of the only local authorities in Greater London that does not compensate its members for time and expenses incurred while undertaking council duties, an anomaly that could change with the introduction of an allowance or expenses system.
A consultation paper tabled at the policy and resources committee meeting on 14 December and circulated amongst members asks their views on whether they should receive payment for their services, and what form the pay should come in.
Councillors in other local authorities are not paid a formal salary but are given allowances to compensate them for their time spent on council business.
The questionnaire was accompanied by a background report that outlines the pay structure at other local authorities; a basic allowance of up to £10,703 each, plus a special responsibility allowance for certain leadership positions – as much as £44,000 for policy chair.
If the City Corporation was to apply the average London local government pay structure with full take up among its 125 members, the cost could come to as much as £1,504,575.
It would be up to members to decide the amount payable and which positions deserved a special responsibility allowance.
Currently there is a members’ financial loss allowance scheme in place to help councillors who suffer financial loss from undertaking civic duties.
The report suggests councillors consider public perception in light of reduced public spending, the number of elected members on the council, and the future of existing privileges like the subsidised Guildhall Club.
The Chief Commoner’s table and seat in the Guildhall Club pic.twitter.com/EUDbsQD62q
— City and Livery (@CityandLivery) April 13, 2017
Remuneration was also flagged as a potential tool to improve diversity on the Common Council, with candidates from a greater cross-section of socioeconomic backgrounds able to participate in the democratic process.
Edward Lord, a councillor for Farringdon Without, echoed these sentiments in a letter to members.
He urged councillors to consider the advantages of a remuneration package for increasing diversity, albeit one modelled on that of public bodies with lower pay scales.
“Statistics indicate that people from BAME and other disadvantaged backgrounds, who are frequently in lower paid jobs, are often less likely to be able to contribute time as unpaid volunteers than those who come from positions of greater privilege,” he said.
“Is it fair to force people to choose between their desire to contribute to the community through elected public service and the need to put food on the table and pay their mortgage or rent?”
Farringdon Without councillor Thomas Anderson said elected members “are more likely to be a Knight of the Realm than living on one of our social housing estates”.
“Remuneration would not be a magic bullet, but it would be a step towards making the Corporation a modern, accessible and relevant institution.”
Portsoken councillor Jason Pritchard said non-remuneration is “a massive obstacle to participation” for many in his residential ward.
“We have tried to get local residents to stand for local election and once they have realised it is voluntary they have said that it would not be financially possible,” he explained.
But Cripplegate councillor Mary Durcan argued the council had improved its diversity and said the focus should be on helping members who have trouble covering the expenses. “In the past two elections approximately half of the elected councillors are new to the Corporation and the number of women and members from ethnic minorities has substantially increased,” she said.
“The mood of the meeting was much in favour of a more generous and easily accessible fund for those suffering loss or having difficulty funding any necessary expenses.
“There is for many a sacrifice to be made regarding their career but I am sure that most councillors think that public service is very worthwhile and enjoyable.”
A City Corporation spokesperson said: “We are consulting on our policy. No decisions have been made and will not be for some time.”