Bexley's democratic deficit

February 14, 2012 10:44 AM

Last year, a petition with 2200 signatures was presented to Bexley Borough Council demanding salaries be capped at £100,000. Under council rules, any petition that attracts 2000 or more signatures automatically triggers a debate at a full council meeting. Although residents in all parts of the borough wanted this issue debating, the council refused quoting the following standing order:
If any question arises at a meeting of the council as to the appointment, promotion, dismissal, salary, superannuation or conditions of service, or as to the conduct of any person employed by the council, such question shall, unless the council otherwise resolves, be deemed to be a ‘special reason’ for excluding the public for the purpose of Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972.


The organiser of the petition, Elwyn Bryant, appealed against this decision, and told a meeting, "We got signatures from every ward in the borough - perhaps the council should start following its own motto and start listening to residents rather than ignoring them." I agree, and the council's reason for rejecting the petition was spurious to say the least.

The petition was not asking for a debate on any individual officer's salary. It wanted a debate on the high level of senior pay in Bexley. The accounts for 2010/11 show that Chief Executive, Will Tuckley earned a basic salary of £185,747; a slight increase on the previous year. He also received benefits in kind worth £10,819. Unhelpfully, the accounts do not state the amount he received in taxpayer funded pension contributions, however in our most recent Town Hall Rich List, which covers 2009/10, I can tell you taxpayers contributed £35,924 to his pension. He also received an additional payment of over £8000 (paid for by the Ministry of Justice) for the onerous task of being the Returning Officer at the European Elections. No doubt he will have received these little extras in the last financial year too.

There are another five officers in addition to Mr Tuckley who receive a basic salary in excess of £100,000 per annum. Others will fall into this category if you include pension payments.

Whatever your perspective; if you think this is right, wrong, or don't have an opinion, this issue should be debated if residents want it to be debated. If local democracy is to mean anything, it has to be accountable to the people. Sadly, this does not seem to be happening in Bexley.Last year, a petition with 2200 signatures was presented to Bexley Borough Council demanding salaries be capped at £100,000. Under council rules, any petition that attracts 2000 or more signatures automatically triggers a debate at a full council meeting. Although residents in all parts of the borough wanted this issue debating, the council refused quoting the following standing order:
If any question arises at a meeting of the council as to the appointment, promotion, dismissal, salary, superannuation or conditions of service, or as to the conduct of any person employed by the council, such question shall, unless the council otherwise resolves, be deemed to be a ‘special reason’ for excluding the public for the purpose of Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972.


The organiser of the petition, Elwyn Bryant, appealed against this decision, and told a meeting, "We got signatures from every ward in the borough - perhaps the council should start following its own motto and start listening to residents rather than ignoring them." I agree, and the council's reason for rejecting the petition was spurious to say the least.

The petition was not asking for a debate on any individual officer's salary. It wanted a debate on the high level of senior pay in Bexley. The accounts for 2010/11 show that Chief Executive, Will Tuckley earned a basic salary of £185,747; a slight increase on the previous year. He also received benefits in kind worth £10,819. Unhelpfully, the accounts do not state the amount he received in taxpayer funded pension contributions, however in our most recent Town Hall Rich List, which covers 2009/10, I can tell you taxpayers contributed £35,924 to his pension. He also received an additional payment of over £8000 (paid for by the Ministry of Justice) for the onerous task of being the Returning Officer at the European Elections. No doubt he will have received these little extras in the last financial year too.

There are another five officers in addition to Mr Tuckley who receive a basic salary in excess of £100,000 per annum. Others will fall into this category if you include pension payments.

Whatever your perspective; if you think this is right, wrong, or don't have an opinion, this issue should be debated if residents want it to be debated. If local democracy is to mean anything, it has to be accountable to the people. Sadly, this does not seem to be happening in Bexley.

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