Council chamber
The council chamber is unlikely to be busy on Wednesday

Greenwich councillors are to freeze their own pay for next year, twelve months after a two per cent increase led to angry scenes at Woolwich Town Hall.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, councillors are currently scheduled to meet tomorrow evening for a slimmed-down and much-shortened council meeting with just a few items of legal business to deal with.

A full meeting had been due to take place tomorrow – including questions from the public – but that was scrapped after social distancing guidelines were issued last week.

With the government finally ordering the public to stay at home last night, if tomorrow’s meeting does go ahead as planned, it is likely to be sparsely-attended, with staying two metres apart unlikely to be a problem for those there.

Tomorrow’s agenda includes a recommendation that councillors’ basic allowances are frozen at £10,415 per year, with all other allowances also the same as they were in 2019/20.

All councillors get the basic £10,415 for what is meant to be a part-time position, with additional sums added for positions of responsibility such as chairing a scrutiny panel (£10,046), being a cabinet member (£22,562), being the ceremonial mayor (£10,046) or leading council (£53,508) or the opposition (£18,540).

Most London boroughs pay their backbench councillors around the same, although last year Brent councillors were lucky enough to get £12,000 while their counterparts in Kingston got just £8,086.

Although last year’s rise in allowances was the first in seven years, Conservatives objected to the way it was handled and voted against it after details were published late, three days after the main agenda was released. Plans for the freeze in allowances this year were also published late.

“This confirms the worst suspicions of local residents about politicians – that we aren’t listening and that we are hiding things,” Eltham North councillor Spencer Drury said at last year’s meeting, with Labour councillors bitterly attacking him after he said that “mishandling it can give the impression that councillors have their snouts in the trough”.

“This is a very sad debate and has added to the sense that politicians sit around talking about themselves,” council leader Danny Thorpe said as the rise passed. The then-ceremonial mayor, Christine May, repeatedly lost control of proceedings and scolded her colleagues for acting like “schoolchildren”.

If the meeting does go ahead, it will be available to watch on the Greenwich Council website.

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