Discussions On Council Pay Panel ‘Going In Circles’

Council Chamber at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

An hour-long Council discussion on Chief Officers’ pay ended up “going around in circles” according to Policy and Resources meeting Chairman, Marian Bennett.

This follows the controversial pay hikes awarded in a closed meeting two years ago and the subsequent plans to form a panel to assess and review the salaries of senior staff and the Chief Executive.

During Tuesday’s debate, four human resources and legal experts advised the attendees on a video-link from Cornwall.

They confirmed that there was no legal requirement to set up one of these panels and no other Councils in the South West had done so.

That prompted Fred Ticehurst to object, saying, “If we are not careful we are going to gallop before we reach the first hurdle.”

Cornwall’s team had submitted a detailed report on how a pay panel could be constituted. But many Councillors felt the options offered weren’t relevant to Scilly’s small and non-political authority.

As members pulled it apart, it was noted that the report implied a panel composition along party political lines.

Richard McCarthy wasn’t impressed by the document and felt it was designed for “larger and grander organizations” and would bring a “more burdensome regime than he envisaged.”

Richard reminded members that the salary review mechanism was originally suggested after difficulty recruiting air traffic controllers. He told members he didn’t see a recruitment and retention issue with chief officers now and “the annual treadmill doesn’t make much sense in the current climate.”

Christine Savill requested that things be done with more transparency and more openly than two years ago. She said she wanted a framework for the authority in the future adding that she would, “perish the thought that another Council has the same difficulties.”

But Fred Ticehurst didn’t want any new sub-committees with salary-setting powers formed.

He challenged attendees that Councillors had agreed to discuss a pay panel in previous meetings at all.

Marian Bennett’s view was that they had, although she conceded that meeting minutes were ambiguous and acknowledged Christine Savill’s nodding to support her view.

Dudley Mumford also felt it would be “big and expensive to administer.”

The inclusion of a Council worker-representative concerned Councillors who felt that picking someone would be contentious.

The problem of declaring interest in salary decisions had been apparent at the start of the debate when the Chairman asked the Director of Finance and Resources, Peter Lawrence, who was one of the recipients of a pay increase, to leave the meeting.

 

Panel Discussions To ‘Focus On Five Members’

 

Marian was assured by the mainland experts that the Council could create a ‘tailor made’ panel and Chris Savill agreed, “we can make this as complex or simple as we wish.”

Members agreed to focus discussion on creating a panel of five Councillors who don’t serve on the finance-centred Policy and Resources committee, and they should be supported by an independent personnel policy expert.

Amanda Martin pointed out that this was what she originally proposed months ago but Marian argued Amanda’s original proposal was to have a panel of three Councillors.

Julia Day also had concerns, referring to the Policy and Resources committee meeting in 2010, which saw ten Councillors narrowly agree the controversial senior staff pay rises.

She said she couldn’t vote for a committee of five with full-delegated powers and she wanted the final say to rest with P&R.

Council Chairman, Mike Hicks, is hosting an informal meeting to talk about the impact the Government’s Localism Bill changes may have on our islands and members will discuss the issue of pay there. After that meeting they’ll seek advice from Cornwall Council’s legal team.

There’ll be a full debate and report presented at the Council meeting on February 23rd.

 



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