"I would be signing petitions too if I believed everything I read in the paper, but I’ve not got a £20,000 pay rise. I was already on £50,700 from two special responsibility allowances, and if I take the full allowance I will be getting £57,624."I wouldn't make so much noise about that. OK, the new system means she's lost a special responsibility allowance, but her overall pay still rises by nearly £8,000, a 14% rise.
"We adopted the lowest rate we possibly could and reduced it some more. We will be bringing in a saving this year, and are freezing it for the next four years – year-on-year there will be saving for the taxpayer."The lowest rate they could? Which they then reduced? How about reducing it further? Moreover, they are only bringing in a saving this year because the cabinet members waived some of their increase. If they claim the full amount next year, the overall allowances budget will increase.
It's news to me that they are freezing the rate for four years. Would they be offering this if there hadn't been so much public uproar? Let's see whether Barnet Tories keep that promise.
"The new system only allows for one allowance, and doesn’t mean a councillor suddenly loses or gains more money overnight – councillors have mortgages to pay and families to keep as well."A sour note creeps in. Rest assured, Mrs Hillan, no one wants councillors to starve, but there's no danger of it, is there? Hillan should be careful how she talks about this, because people are questioninng hard the whole system of paying councillors at all. Myself, I'm undecided, but I know this recent allowances furore has decided many people against.
What about the timing of the decision to change the allowances system?
Mrs Hillan, who took over as council leader in December, said they had been looking to adopt London Councils’ scheme for some time. When challenged why this had not been mentioned to the electorate before the election, she said: “We hadn’t really discussed it. Only after the election councillors started saying we needed to look at something different.”Inept handling of the question. Makes it sound as though they had a bout of temporary amnesia. We were looking at raising the allowances, then we forgot we were, then we remembered again. Careless but, somehow, convenient.
How has this episode affected relations with the council workforce?
Unions have hit out at the councillors, with claims that they are lining their pockets while frontline council workers are facing a pay freeze or possible redundancy, but Mrs Hillan argued that politicians had been victims of pay freezes for several years. She said: “I’m not saying I want more money or we should take more money, but the unions have been allowed to increase public sector pay over and over again.”This comment will go down like a lead balloon with those greedy council workers.
What about Kate Salinger?
Mrs Hillan also refused to comment on Councillor Kate Salinger, who was stripped of all her main committee positions after she abstained from the allowances vote on a matter of “conscience”. Mrs Hillan said it was a matter for the Tory group office and said Mrs Salinger was still chairwoman of the children’s services overview and scrutiny sub-committee.I'm guessing they couldn't find someone else for that job, which involves a degree of competence that is clearly not required for the other posts, such as chairing a residents' forum. (Hillan has said a lot more about Kate Salinger in an interview with the Times series.)
Hillan now makes another rash promise with regard to councillors' allowances. I doubt somehow that she believes that she could get councillors to accept a 25% pay cut. Another careless remark then:
Mrs Hillan said: “I think we are going to have a difficult time over the next four years. We are inevitably going to upset a few people. We are going to see 25 per cent cuts across the board – allowances are not going to be exempt from that. I know it’s going to be painful for everybody.Now for the Hillan coup de grâce:
“Residents’ relationships with the council are going to change. When someone calls up and says it’s been snowing can we help clear their path, the answer is going to be, ‘Get a spade out of the shed’.Not very reassuring words for anyone that doesn't have a shed or a spade, or would struggle to use a spade through age or disability. This is the council that prided itself on getting around to old people's houses during the cold spell last winter. That was warm-hearted Mike Freer's Barnet. This is ice queen Lynne Hillan's.
“That’s not just in Barnet – that’s everywhere.”
She might protest that her spade analogy is just a turn of phrase. In that case, here's one for Lynne Hillan: when you're in a hole, stop digging.