An extra £24k is found for ‘executive support’

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

An extra £24,600 is being handed out to three new ‘lead members’ on cash-strapped Wigan Council.

Opposition councillors have questioned why the authority, which has been charged with saving £42m this financial year, has forked out on additional assistance to support the borough’s executive.

Public sector pay rises, for council workers, have also been limited to one per cent again this year.

Three new ‘lead member’ posts have been created, Couns Joanne Marshall, Nazia Rehman and James Moodie, who will respectively cover the ‘Greener Wigan’, ‘community and family safety’ and ‘leisure and public health’ portfolios.

Each will be entitled to a £8,232 allowance on top of their basic councillor’s allowances award of £12,301.

Executive members already receive £28,930, with leader Lord Peter Smith on £58,902 and deputy leader Coun David Molyneux on £36,289.

Under local government legislation, councils are not permitted to have executives comprising more than 10 members. Currently Wigan’s board is eight strong and the three ‘lead member’ posts were announced in May.

The move, confirmed at a meeting of Wigan full council, has been blasted by Conservative opposition leader Michael Winstanley.

Coun Winstanley said he was not opposed in principle to the posts which had been created, or the three members who had actually been selected for the roles.

He added: “When we are told in this council chamber, that we have got to save £42m over the next few years, or whatever the figure may be, I don’t think creating three new positions is the right thing to do to reduce the deficit.

“You must have been using Diane Abbott’s calculator if you thought that this made financial sense.”

Council leader Lord Smith said that the allowances recommendation had been put forward by an independent panel and he was always minded to accept their recommendations.

And the decision was being made against the backdrop of the authority having to ultimately save £160m by 2020, he told a full council meeting.

Lord Smith added: “This has actually made the job of cabinet members and officers much more difficult.

“What we want to do is to make sure that we serve the people of the borough in the best way we can and this is what this will do,”

In a report the IRP panel, which is chaired by Dr Declan Hall, a former academic at the Institute of Local Government, defended its stance.

Their report says: “The full role description of the Wigan lead members shows that they are substantial posts with significant roles and responsibilities.

“This is not always the case elsewhere, with the posts often being given the vague role of providing support to their respective cabinet members and can be limited to shadowing or acting in an apprentice role.”

Eight out of nine of the other Greater Manchester authorities pay out for lead members or deputy or assistant executive members.

This can range from a £1,226 stipend for councillors in Bury to a £10,073 handout for their opposite numbers in Salford.