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LONDON ALLOWANCES SET TO SOAR

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By political correspondent Varya Shaw ...
By political correspondent Varya Shaw

London leaders should be paid more than backbench MPs to reflect the responsibility of the job and the huge budgets they manage, according to a report by an independent panel.

They should be paid£52,000 a year, with elected mayors getting£65,000, it says.

The panel has recommended high salaries for councillors before, but councils have not taken the idea up. Now they have to have executive structures by law, it is likely allowances in the capital will soar.

The report, Making allowances, was commissioned by the Association of London Government and has been sent to all chief executives. It puts leaders' pay at the level of MPs', and mayors' 25% higher. Cabinet members and the chair of the main scrutiny committee should receive between£36,400 to£41,600, it says. Backbench councillors with no other responsibilities should only receive£8,500.

The allowances raise the prospect of a council career becoming preferable to one in national government, which can grind to a halt on the back benches of Parliament.

The report says: 'The duties and responsibilities of the leader of a London council are at least as demanding as those of a backbench MP and this should be reflected within local allowance schemes.'

Panel chair Malcolm Grant, professor of land economy at Cambridge University, said: 'A leader of a London council is very visible and accountable in a way a back bench MP is not necessarily. We want people to come forward for these posts who are of at least the calibre of people who get elected to Parliament.

'These are really responsible jobs, with responsibility for huge budgets, thousands of staff and hundreds of thousands of people in their borough.'

He rejected claims the report pandered to the payroll vote, 'it's moving away from a squirearchical time when people did these sorts of things out of a sense of public obligation or merely to fight a political corner.

'What we want to do is make it possible for someone who doesn't have other income to do this job effectively.'

A spokesman for the Campaign for Open Local Government, which claims to stand up for the interests of backbench councillors, said: 'It's insulting to backbenchers. Most backbenchers work extremely hard, very long hours on behalf of their community and contribute tremendously.

'We support the principle of payments to councillors but the differential is too big. Basically this is huge raises for bosses and little or nothing for workers.'

The panel members are Bridget Rosewell, chief economic adviser to the British Retail Consortium, and LGC columnist and ex-Westminster City Council chief executive Rodney Brooke.

The Rate For The Job

Basic:£8,500

Special responsibility allowance (inc basic)

Band one: leader of a minor opposition party, vice chair of a major regulatory committee, vice chairs of area forums -£10,400 to£15,600

Band two: chair of a scrutiny panel, members on outside bodies, the leader of the main opposition group, chair of a major regulatory committee -£20,800 to£31,200

Band three: very senior posts such as cabinet member, chair of the main scrutiny committee -£36,400 to£41,600

Band four: council leader -£52,000

Band five: directly elected mayor -£65,000

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