Dispute blows up over opposition leader’s special allowance

Councillor Simche Steinberger

Councillor Simche Steinberger

A dispute has arisen over the special allowance given to the leader of Hackney council’s political opposition.

The issue was brought up by Cllr Simche Steinberger (Con, Springfield) at a full council meeting on 18 July.

Independent advice given to Hackney Council in 2015 resulted in a split allocation of special responsibility allowances between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders on a 3:2 ratio.

However, though Liberal Democrat councillors lost their seats in the 2018 London local elections, the Conservative leader’s allowance has remained unchanged.

Cllr Steinberger said: “The whole reason the Conservative leader’s allowance was cut was that the Liberal Democrats have three councillors and the Conservatives have four.

“We now have five, so our leader should be getting much more than he got, and the Liberal Democrats are gone, so we’re the only opposition.

“The Labour party think that as long as they’re all still getting their allowances, they don’t care about what the other allowances should look like.”

The council have committed to a review of opposition leader pay allowance since the meeting at which Cllr Steinberger raised his concerns.

In a statement to the Citizen, Tim Shields, chief executive of Hackney Council, said: “As with other councils, we seek independent advice on members’ allowances, which are reviewed either periodically, as a result of a change to the constitution of the council’s committees, or as a result of a request for a review.

“Members’ allowances were last reviewed in 2015, and there has not been a change to the council’s committees or a request for a review since then.

“However, due to a change in political balance following the 2018 elections, I have asked the council’s independent advisor to carry out a review of the opposition leader’s allowance, and I will invite the opposition to meet with him.”

Councillors’ allowances are routinely published on Hackney Council’s website.

Ian Sharer, then-leader of Hackney’s Liberal Democrats and representing Cazenove ward, was apportioned a greater special responsibility allowance (SRA) to reflect the constitutional importance of his role as second opposition group leader, reducing Cllr Levy’s SRA as leader of Hackney’s Conservatives..

The figures show that Cllr Levy’s SRA as first opposition group leader has remained substantially unchanged, despite the disappearance of Liberal Democrats from Hackney’s council.

2014-15 (pre-review)

Cllr Sharer £2,227.45
Cllr Levy £17,532.58

2015-16 (year of review)

Cllr Sharer £8,143.30
Cllr Levy £12,214.94

2016-17

Cllr Sharer £8,224.73
Cllr Levy £12,337.09

2017-18 (most recent pay figures)

Cllr Sharer (lost his seat, May 2018)
Cllr Levy £12,460.46

Cllr Steinberger questioned the timing of the announcement of the upcoming review, and suggested that the role of opposition group leader, held by Cllr Michael Levy (Con, Springfield), was a responsibility commensurate with a substantial allowance.

He said: “Up until the Hackney Citizen got involved, we had heard nothing at all. I brought this up at a full council meeting nearly a month ago.

“We only heard on 2 August in an email that they’d set up a meeting for me and Cllr Levy to meet with the panel.

“We want a common sense approach. The opposition leader needs to get a proper allowance for the amount of time and the amount of effort which he puts in.

“The mayor has two council officers helping him to prepare him for full council meetings. Cllr Levy has to do everything on his own.

“He has to sit much longer than any other councillor to go through things. He has a whole agenda to read. Nobody does the reading for him.

“It’s not for me to say the exact amount he should get, but I believe the opposition leader is similar to a cabinet job.

“Wouldn’t it be a good idea to take the mayor’s wages, and we take the Conservative leader’s wages, and we group them up. So maybe the mayor will get a little bit less, and the opposition leader will get a little bit more. How about that?”

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville received a total allowance of £80,118.92 in 2017-18.



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