Cash-for-councillors panel row after SLDC turns down applicant for post

The Westmorland Gazette: Ian Kell: "Too forthright" Ian Kell: "Too forthright"

A MEMBER of the public believes he was blocked from a role on a council panel for having too strong opinions about what councillors are paid.

Ian Kell, 64, tried to win a place on South Lakeland District Council’s independent remuneration panel, which sets the allowances councillors receive every year.

After being interviewed by SLDC director Debbie Storr, then panel chairman John Lyons and council solicitor Matthew Neal, the retired academic was recommended for the position.

But when it came to the vote by councillors, they chose not appoint him.

Instead, the council decided to re-advertise the posts and told Mr Kell the panel needed more women or people from the Ulverston area.

But Mr Kell, from Mealbank, submitted a Freedom of Information request to see the private committee papers used by the council.

They acknowledged he was “a strong candidate” who could make a “valuable contribution” to the panel - having served 15 years on Skelsmergh and Scalthwaite Parish Council.

But they added: “Mr Kell was noted at interview as forthright in his views and the means of expressing such views. As such it was considered that there is a risk that this factor may cause friction within the panel or subdue the members of the panel who have a more reflective approach to their work.”

Mr Kell believes his experience calls into question the panel's claim of independence.

SLDC had advertised for “impartial” people who would “enhance public confidence in the allowances system”.

Mr Kell said: “It’s been a very salutory experience and I have been surprised and shocked," he said. "What I understood to be a fair and even-handed process has proved not to be so.

“They do only say 'yes' to uncritical yes-men and yes-women. I was asked if councillors should be paid and I said no.

“Councillors are not paid, councillors can elect to take up to a maximum amount and with one or two honourable exceptions, they all elect to take the maximum.”

SLD's Lib Dem leader Peter Thornton said Mr Kell was entitled to his opinion.

Coun Thornton said: “If you look at who is on there, the quality of people and see their backgrounds you will see they are independent - they are not involved in politics.

"They don’t always do what we want and we have to accept their recommendations. We don’t appoint people who are too sympathetic," he said.

Coun David Williams, leader of the Conservative opposition, declined to comment.

Debbie Storr, SLDC's director of policy and resources, said: "Council considered filling these positions in February. At that stage councillors deferred decision to attempt to broaden the field of candidates to achieve mix in terms of gender, geography and skills mix.

"The second round involved a different panel and attracted eight candidates. Five of them were interviewed, including Mr Kell."

"Two stronger candidates emerged from the interview process. The decision to appoint them to the independent remuneration panel was made by full council."

Last year, councillors on SLDC cost the public purse more than a quarter-of-a-million pounds.

A total of £285,355 was paid to SLDC’s 51 councillors in 2012-13 - a small increase on the previous year.

Elected members can claim a basic £3879-a-year for the role as well as submitting expenses for travel and subsistence.

Extra payments are given if the councillor holds a special responsibility, like leader of their political group, a high-ranking role on a committee or are a member of SLDC’s most senior committee, the Cabinet.

As is usual practice, the highest amount went to the overall Council leader Peter Thornton, who claimed £19,211 - involving a basic £3,879 plus £12,442 as council leader and £2,899 in travel and subsistence expenses.

Coun James Airey, the Conservative group leader on SLDC during 2012-13, claimed £6,363 - consisting of the basic £3879 and £2484 for his role as leader of the Tory opposition.

Wife and fellow Tory councillor Caroline Airey, claimed the basic £3879.96.

Lib Dem councillors and husband and wife Jo and Hilary Stephenson also claimed a total £14,145.

Nine councillors on SLDC claimed only the basic £3879 and did not submit any travel or subsistence claims.

The money councillors receive is set every year by the five-member Independent Renumeration Panel which consists of five appointed members of the public.

Meanwhile, Cumbria County Council paid out just over £1 million in council allowances during 2012-13.

Comments (17)

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7:28pm Wed 21 Aug 13

boris plasticmac says...

Can I suggest at the next full meeting of the council, they vote to drop the word 'independent' from the remuneration committee's title in order they can conform to the Trade Descriptions Act.
Can I suggest at the next full meeting of the council, they vote to drop the word 'independent' from the remuneration committee's title in order they can conform to the Trade Descriptions Act. boris plasticmac
  • Score: 1

8:14pm Wed 21 Aug 13

Moonbase says...

Can't beat the quango.........press
ed the wrong knuckle.
Pigs with their snouts in troughs are quite stubborn.
Better off without having to deal with all these moronic people anyway.
Bent as.......lol
Can't beat the quango.........press ed the wrong knuckle. Pigs with their snouts in troughs are quite stubborn. Better off without having to deal with all these moronic people anyway. Bent as.......lol Moonbase
  • Score: 0

8:29pm Wed 21 Aug 13

Lakeuk says...

Confusing story, first half implies he was looked over yet second half of story quotes that he was included in the second round to which you may assume he had a good crack at being considered for the panel.
Confusing story, first half implies he was looked over yet second half of story quotes that he was included in the second round to which you may assume he had a good crack at being considered for the panel. Lakeuk
  • Score: 0

9:04pm Wed 21 Aug 13

boris plasticmac says...

Lakeuk wrote:
Confusing story, first half implies he was looked over yet second half of story quotes that he was included in the second round to which you may assume he had a good crack at being considered for the panel.
If Mr Kell was bumped by councillors the first time he was recommended, he did not have a cat in hells chance of getting through a second round as everybody knows he's not wanted.
Looks like the council redefined the word impartial to one which means agree with me.
[quote][p][bold]Lakeuk[/bold] wrote: Confusing story, first half implies he was looked over yet second half of story quotes that he was included in the second round to which you may assume he had a good crack at being considered for the panel.[/p][/quote]If Mr Kell was bumped by councillors the first time he was recommended, he did not have a cat in hells chance of getting through a second round as everybody knows he's not wanted. Looks like the council redefined the word impartial to one which means agree with me. boris plasticmac
  • Score: 0

10:05pm Wed 21 Aug 13

KendalSmithy says...

I get the impression this guy, had he been appointed, would have been a one-cause campaigner, and wouldn't necessarily have been too concerned about the rest of the issues facing local authorities. Local councillors need to be caring, compassionate, wise, considerate, constructive, sometimes innovative and often reflective. But since he's already whinging to the local press I doubt that Mr Kell fits the bill. I've seen none of those qualities in what he's said here. Looks like a case of 'sour grapes' to me.
I get the impression this guy, had he been appointed, would have been a one-cause campaigner, and wouldn't necessarily have been too concerned about the rest of the issues facing local authorities. Local councillors need to be caring, compassionate, wise, considerate, constructive, sometimes innovative and often reflective. But since he's already whinging to the local press I doubt that Mr Kell fits the bill. I've seen none of those qualities in what he's said here. Looks like a case of 'sour grapes' to me. KendalSmithy
  • Score: 1

10:50pm Wed 21 Aug 13

boris plasticmac says...

KendalSmithy wrote:
I get the impression this guy, had he been appointed, would have been a one-cause campaigner, and wouldn't necessarily have been too concerned about the rest of the issues facing local authorities. Local councillors need to be caring, compassionate, wise, considerate, constructive, sometimes innovative and often reflective. But since he's already whinging to the local press I doubt that Mr Kell fits the bill. I've seen none of those qualities in what he's said here. Looks like a case of 'sour grapes' to me.
So what they need is someone who asks how high when told to jump.
I suspect Kendal Smithy your definition of independent and impartial is different to mine.
[quote][p][bold]KendalSmithy[/bold] wrote: I get the impression this guy, had he been appointed, would have been a one-cause campaigner, and wouldn't necessarily have been too concerned about the rest of the issues facing local authorities. Local councillors need to be caring, compassionate, wise, considerate, constructive, sometimes innovative and often reflective. But since he's already whinging to the local press I doubt that Mr Kell fits the bill. I've seen none of those qualities in what he's said here. Looks like a case of 'sour grapes' to me.[/p][/quote]So what they need is someone who asks how high when told to jump. I suspect Kendal Smithy your definition of independent and impartial is different to mine. boris plasticmac
  • Score: 1

11:06pm Wed 21 Aug 13

onelocal says...

What hasn't been said is that although the Councillor Airey family received around £10,000 pounds from SLDC, Councillor Airey also received £22,000 from CCC? The Stephenson family received £14000 from SLDC, but also almost £16,000 from CCC
What hasn't been said is that although the Councillor Airey family received around £10,000 pounds from SLDC, Councillor Airey also received £22,000 from CCC? The Stephenson family received £14000 from SLDC, but also almost £16,000 from CCC onelocal
  • Score: 4

11:17pm Wed 21 Aug 13

Sick of moaners says...

£32000 mr Airey not bad is it? How much does he get from being a farmer?sorry poor farmer.
£32000 mr Airey not bad is it? How much does he get from being a farmer?sorry poor farmer. Sick of moaners
  • Score: 2

11:37pm Wed 21 Aug 13

KendalSmithy says...

OK, so let's suppose I applied to be on the remuneration panel (but there's no danger of that as I'm not a councillor), and argued forcibly, in my selection campaign, in the same way as Mr Kells did - and obviously still does - for an INCREASE in allowances. Should I therefore be considered impartial and independent, and thereby be selected?
OK, so let's suppose I applied to be on the remuneration panel (but there's no danger of that as I'm not a councillor), and argued forcibly, in my selection campaign, in the same way as Mr Kells did - and obviously still does - for an INCREASE in allowances. Should I therefore be considered impartial and independent, and thereby be selected? KendalSmithy
  • Score: -2

12:10am Thu 22 Aug 13

boris plasticmac says...

If your recommendation is based on evidence that an increase is required then you should be selected and of course the same goes if the evidence shows a decrease is required.
People should be selected for this panel for their ability to deal with the difficult problem of expenses openly ,honestly and impartially. They are not there to rubber stamp a feeling by councillors that because they are caring, compassionate, hard working, wise etc, they deserve to be paid what they feel like.
I understand that for the privilege of being a member of this panel they get paid £36 a meeting for about 4 meetings a year. This doesn't seem much when you compare it to the expenses councillors can claim.
If your recommendation is based on evidence that an increase is required then you should be selected and of course the same goes if the evidence shows a decrease is required. People should be selected for this panel for their ability to deal with the difficult problem of expenses openly ,honestly and impartially. They are not there to rubber stamp a feeling by councillors that because they are caring, compassionate, hard working, wise etc, they deserve to be paid what they feel like. I understand that for the privilege of being a member of this panel they get paid £36 a meeting for about 4 meetings a year. This doesn't seem much when you compare it to the expenses councillors can claim. boris plasticmac
  • Score: 0

12:44pm Thu 22 Aug 13

Lakeuk says...

Interesting debate, for this to work the criteria for being on the panel is to have someone who is unbiased, from the start has no view in any direction, bit like being called for jury service, any hint of a preconceved view and they don't want your, but the name of the panel suggests that if you were interested in being part of it then probable you're likely to have a reconceved view which in effect makes it difficult to get people on board.
Interesting debate, for this to work the criteria for being on the panel is to have someone who is unbiased, from the start has no view in any direction, bit like being called for jury service, any hint of a preconceved view and they don't want your, but the name of the panel suggests that if you were interested in being part of it then probable you're likely to have a reconceved view which in effect makes it difficult to get people on board. Lakeuk
  • Score: 0

10:55pm Thu 22 Aug 13

snuggle-bunny says...

It's all just one big old boy's club
It's all just one big old boy's club snuggle-bunny
  • Score: 0

11:04pm Thu 22 Aug 13

KendalSmithy says...

Whether they're a big old boys club or not, we need them. Somebody has to run things, so what's the best way to select the best people to take on the thankless of jobs of local councillors? Answers on a postcard please ...
Whether they're a big old boys club or not, we need them. Somebody has to run things, so what's the best way to select the best people to take on the thankless of jobs of local councillors? Answers on a postcard please ... KendalSmithy
  • Score: 0

5:11pm Tue 27 Aug 13

Blogtrotter says...

Not quite thankless if the likes of Lib Dem Peter Thornton are taking the thick end of twenty grand each year for their "trouble".

If for a band D property, SLDC are taking £175.63 of the £1,572.43 we have had to pay in total for 2013, then by my reckoning, that's equivalent to you and 108 other families paying for him alone.

I'm sure a lot of folk would love to get £370 per week for wearing out the seat of your corduroys whilst drying the back of your teeth with all that hot air..

We only have ourselves to blame, we voted for them. Don't make the same mistake twice.
Not quite thankless if the likes of Lib Dem Peter Thornton are taking the thick end of twenty grand each year for their "trouble". If for a band D property, SLDC are taking £175.63 of the £1,572.43 we have had to pay in total for 2013, then by my reckoning, that's equivalent to you and 108 other families paying for him alone. I'm sure a lot of folk would love to get £370 per week for wearing out the seat of your corduroys whilst drying the back of your teeth with all that hot air.. We only have ourselves to blame, we voted for them. Don't make the same mistake twice. Blogtrotter
  • Score: 0

5:45pm Tue 27 Aug 13

KendalSmithy says...

That's no answer, BT. How else can we attract good people into public service? They seem to receive no thanks at all from you!

I've known Peter Thornton for many years and he has an extremely fast mind (and mouth, but that's for another debate) and can think about numerous topics all at the same time. Not only that but he understands people and sees every dilemma from all angles. If you want to nominate people you would seriously prefer to be on SLDC I'm sure we'll all be keen to see your list.

But then it would seem you're also suggesting we don't vote for them so we don't make any more mistakes. Have I understood you correctly?
That's no answer, BT. How else can we attract good people into public service? They seem to receive no thanks at all from you! I've known Peter Thornton for many years and he has an extremely fast mind (and mouth, but that's for another debate) and can think about numerous topics all at the same time. Not only that but he understands people and sees every dilemma from all angles. If you want to nominate people you would seriously prefer to be on SLDC I'm sure we'll all be keen to see your list. But then it would seem you're also suggesting we don't vote for them so we don't make any more mistakes. Have I understood you correctly? KendalSmithy
  • Score: 0

9:29am Wed 28 Aug 13

Blogtrotter says...

KendalSmithy wrote:
That's no answer, BT. How else can we attract good people into public service? They seem to receive no thanks at all from you!

I've known Peter Thornton for many years and he has an extremely fast mind (and mouth, but that's for another debate) and can think about numerous topics all at the same time. Not only that but he understands people and sees every dilemma from all angles. If you want to nominate people you would seriously prefer to be on SLDC I'm sure we'll all be keen to see your list.

But then it would seem you're also suggesting we don't vote for them so we don't make any more mistakes. Have I understood you correctly?
Thanks Kendal Smithy.

If 'democracy' was a more tangible commodity like a loaf of bread, then this side debate could be more easily understood as to whether we were getting 'value for money' from councillor expenses.

Do we feel 'fairly' represented in Kendal by the people whose name against we put a cross on the ballot paper?

Of course we have to recompense public servants who step up to the plate and give their time and energy to these important roles in local government.

I appreciate that dedication is required and can imagine the challenge of juggling such a role with your personal and business commitments.

The heart of the issue for me is whether there is integrity, credibility and accountability to allow us to have confidence in our public servants. At present, I would say not.

If we had confidence in our public servants at SLDC, then how much we fund them would be less of a concern.

The problem is that there is a perception that these roles are tenured by politicians first and public servants second.

This is in no small way related to the Lib Dem party machinery in our region which in my opinion puts too tight a straight jacket on local democracy. Local councillors would appear to obey the whip or fear the consequences. Go and see your own councillor in action and decide for yourself.

How can we have any confidence that we have a voice in Kendal if what our councillor says or thinks has to be moderated by their party?

And so the answer to me is simple. Parties should allow our local councillors to operate without a whip so they can truly be seen to represent the people who voted for them, or we should look to take the party out of local politics altogether.

When I say we only have ourselves to blame, and don't make the same mistake twice, I mean for you to really 'know' your candidate. Are they controlled by the party machine? Do they represent you? Are you just voting for the person who turns up at your door with breezy smile and a big sunshine rosette? Are you just voting for the nice man who seems very energetic, travelling down to Westminster and back with his picture in the Gazette every week?

Yes, let's attract people into public service, but let them be more public servants than self-serving, career-minded party politicians.

I cannot produce a list KS, as the right people need to come forth from the communities they would seek to represent. That way we can have faith in SLDC once more, and not have to worry about how much or how little they get paid ,beyond the usual checks and balances.
[quote][p][bold]KendalSmithy[/bold] wrote: That's no answer, BT. How else can we attract good people into public service? They seem to receive no thanks at all from you! I've known Peter Thornton for many years and he has an extremely fast mind (and mouth, but that's for another debate) and can think about numerous topics all at the same time. Not only that but he understands people and sees every dilemma from all angles. If you want to nominate people you would seriously prefer to be on SLDC I'm sure we'll all be keen to see your list. But then it would seem you're also suggesting we don't vote for them so we don't make any more mistakes. Have I understood you correctly?[/p][/quote]Thanks Kendal Smithy. If 'democracy' was a more tangible commodity like a loaf of bread, then this side debate could be more easily understood as to whether we were getting 'value for money' from councillor expenses. Do we feel 'fairly' represented in Kendal by the people whose name against we put a cross on the ballot paper? Of course we have to recompense public servants who step up to the plate and give their time and energy to these important roles in local government. I appreciate that dedication is required and can imagine the challenge of juggling such a role with your personal and business commitments. The heart of the issue for me is whether there is integrity, credibility and accountability to allow us to have confidence in our public servants. At present, I would say not. If we had confidence in our public servants at SLDC, then how much we fund them would be less of a concern. The problem is that there is a perception that these roles are tenured by politicians first and public servants second. This is in no small way related to the Lib Dem party machinery in our region which in my opinion puts too tight a straight jacket on local democracy. Local councillors would appear to obey the whip or fear the consequences. Go and see your own councillor in action and decide for yourself. How can we have any confidence that we have a voice in Kendal if what our councillor says or thinks has to be moderated by their party? And so the answer to me is simple. Parties should allow our local councillors to operate without a whip so they can truly be seen to represent the people who voted for them, or we should look to take the party out of local politics altogether. When I say we only have ourselves to blame, and don't make the same mistake twice, I mean for you to really 'know' your candidate. Are they controlled by the party machine? Do they represent you? Are you just voting for the person who turns up at your door with breezy smile and a big sunshine rosette? Are you just voting for the nice man who seems very energetic, travelling down to Westminster and back with his picture in the Gazette every week? Yes, let's attract people into public service, but let them be more public servants than self-serving, career-minded party politicians. I cannot produce a list KS, as the right people need to come forth from the communities they would seek to represent. That way we can have faith in SLDC once more, and not have to worry about how much or how little they get paid ,beyond the usual checks and balances. Blogtrotter
  • Score: 0

12:50pm Wed 28 Aug 13

give-up says...

Interesting that the panel thought "Do you think Councillors should be paid?" was a useful question to pose during the interview process.
Interesting that the panel thought "Do you think Councillors should be paid?" was a useful question to pose during the interview process. give-up
  • Score: 0

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