“Councillors should be volunteers”

I think they’re doing it just to deliberately annoy people now. Y’know, the coalition government, wilfully mixing up and conflating issues and prescribing completely ridiculous policy solutions to address said issues.

Take this from Grant Shapps:

Proposed increases to councillor allowances are “unjustifiable” at a time when public sector workers are facing a two-year pay freeze, local government minister Grant Shapps has said.

Mr Shapps criticised recommendations from the Local Government Association (LGA) to increase member allowances by 2.3% this year as well as paying councillors attending the LGA a £152.77 “daily rate”, calling on councillors to freeze their allowances in line with public sector workers.

The Conservatives said the proposals were indicative of a “worrying trend for the professionalisation of councillors, who should be volunteers”, citing a BBC survey conducted last year which revealed that councillors’ pay had risen by above inflation in the past four years.

I happen to agree with the idea of freezing Councillor allowances – this is only fair when local government workers face the same. (I don’t agree with freezing pay or allowances per se, by the way. But if you’re going to apply it, at least do it consistently.)

But it’s quite a leap from freezing allowances to saying that Councillors are being “professionalised” and that they should be “volunteers”.

Local Councillors are some of the most selfless, committed and passionate people I’ve ever known. They give so much time and effort of themselves to their local communities that I honestly have no idea how they do it. For example, you only need to follow Cllr Daisy Benson to realise – irrespective of politics – what a huge difference she makes in her community. There are hundreds like her across throughout local government.

And the responsibilities of Councillors mean that you want someone who is so dedicated and, frankly, able, to undertake those roles. A bit of professionalism, given those responsibilities, is in no way remiss.

Of course, one of the key problems with Councillors is the supply-side: the quality isn’t always there, and there are too many retired Brigadier Generals passing their halcyon days in town halls the land over. But how – given this supply-side problem, and the responsibilities the coalition government are apparently keen to press on local government – you come to the view of suggesting that Councillors should be volunteers as a solution to the issue of rising allowances is, frankly, a load of contradictory nonsense.

Maybe Shapps is just continuing his Secretary of State’s propensity for humour a bit too far? After all, he’s talking such crap that I can only assume he’s joking.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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