Calls To 'Cut Ealing Councillors' Pay - Not Services'

Says campaigner backing petition over controversial library proposals


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A Northfields man who is backing a new petition over proposed cuts to the library services is calling for a radical overhaul of the payments local councillors receive.

Ealing Council may have to close up to seven of the 13 libraries in the borough, including those at Northfield, West Ealing and Perivale, unless community groups can be found to run them on a voluntary basis. Up to 11 of the borough’s 27 children centres are also facing cuts.

Simon Hayes says he understands the council is under financial pressure but believes they are going about trying to save money the wrong way. He says, '' We will be left with a rump library service, inaccessible to many and way less than the Council should be providing. By 2022 the library budget will be just £566,000, ridiculous for a borough with 350,000 residents, numerous schools, colleges and a university.''

Mr Hayes believes that with so many vital services now facing the axe paying local representatives is no longer tenable.

He added, ''‘Very few people seem to be aware that our councillors are remunerated for their time. They get a basic allowance of £9,708 a year each. We have 69 councillors all claiming this, equating to £669,852 – that’s a lot of money that could be used towards keeping services going.

''Add to that the special responsibility allowances doled and the figure is even higher. Cllr Bell gets £32,000 for being leader of the council. He also has another job, so he doesn’t even work full time for the taxpayers in the borough. Yet he’s happy to see professional librarians thrown out of their jobs.

‘Libraries are not just places where books are kept, they are community hubs providing all sorts of services including access to the internet for the elderly and people on lower incomes.

Council leader Julian Bell has defended the proposals.

He said, ‘In discussions with local residents and community groups we have found genuine interest in being part of a community-managed library service, but we do understand why there are concerns over these proposals. We will be consulting on the new structure and how we manage the process to encourage as many community groups to come forward as possible and to ensure we provide the flexibility so that the right structure can be found for each of these local libraries."

In response to the call for basic allowances to be cut he said: ‘We pay some of the lowest rates of councillors’ allowances in London, both basic allowance for councillors and the special responsibility allowances for those with other roles. These rates have been frozen in cash terms since 2010, with the exception of a below-inflation increase of 1 per cent in 2014.

''We will be bringing forward proposals shortly to reduce our special responsibilities allowance bill. Councillors’ allowances provide some recompense for time spent on public duties and ensuring there are not financial barriers to individuals from a wide range of backgrounds seeking to become councillors. Many of Ealing’s councillors do not have substantial other sources of income. There are those who are retired, have caring responsibilities, or work reduced hours so that they can devote time to being a councillor. I don’t believe that scrapping allowances would be a progressive or fair thing to do, especially given the very small portion of the council’s outgoings that this represents.''

Mr Hayes is unimpressed and responded, 'They have told us they want Ealing residents to work for free in our libraries, so why not practice what they preach and do the same when it comes to council work?’

The option of a community managed library in Northfields was examined eight years ago, when it was threatened with closure.

Conservative Councillor David Millican has vowed to fight the new proposals. He said: ‘They want local groups to manage each of the libraries.  It really needs to be a formal community group, perhaps an existing group or charity or maybe a new group of volunteers specifically formed to run each respective library.

‘The previous time Northfields Library was under threat of closure there was a similar proposal to find a community group to run the library.  However after much effort proposals from a local well-known charity, of which I was then a trustee, came to nothing and no workable scheme was identified.  Frankly I am not hugely optimistic.  However I want to do all I can to keep the Library open. It’s the jewel in the crown of our community.''

A consultation is due on the library proposals from February 18 until May 12, with a cabinet decision due in July.

A petition has been set up to fight the Council’s proposals.


30 January 2019

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