Allowance cuts knocked back

Reporter: Janice Barker & Dawn Marsden
Date published: 22 July 2010

Last night’s full Oldham Council meeting

COUNCILLORS will not be cutting 10 per cent from their allowances after a vote which split the Tory group.

The proposal from Labour leader, Councillor Jim McMahon, was defeated by two votes. Two Tories, John Hudson and Len Quinn, backed the idea, while their group leader Jack Hulme and colleague Eileen Hulme opposed it along with the Liberal Democrat councillors.

Councillor McMahon wanted to amend proposals from the council’s Independent Remuneration Committee to freeze councillors’ allowances until another review in 2011.

Councillor McMahon told the council : “You can’t say to everybody that you have to accept cuts while agreeing to freeze allowances and give protection for us.”

But Councillor Jack Hulme accused the Labour leader of political interference and said it was seeking to gain political advantage by a populist proposal.

And he denied reports that he was one of the few councillors to get an increased special responsibility allowance for being a minority leader, because he never claims the allowance.

Councillor Eileen Hulme said no councillor had to take their allowances and asked why the cut had to be imposed adding: “If we care so much why don’t we do it voluntarily?”

Liberal Democrat Councillor John McCann said the 10 per cent cut was a superficially attractive idea but it would mean throwing away an independent body, and added: “Play politics with this and you will descend into the gutter.”

Council leader Howard Sykes said throwing out the remuneration panel’s suggestions would end 15 years of agreement.

But Councillor Hudson said: “I don’t read into this that we would scrap the system altogether.

“I understand that we are being asked to take this cut for two years, then go back to the panel and go back to normal.”

Councillor Dave Hibbert accused some councillors of deliberately misleading people, adding: “We are simply saying to the people of Oldham we will stand with them and by them.”

And in a heated exchange, Councillor McMahon (pictured) told Councillor Jack Hulme: “I will not be lectured on morals and responsibility by someone who has sold his soul by getting a seat on the Cabinet for £13,000 a year.”

After his amendment was defeated by 30 votes to 28, Councillor McMahon said: “I’m very depressed and really disappointed.

“But some people had the courage to break away like John Hudson and Len Quinn.”