Being a councillor: a public service or a feather-bedded job?

“The ceremonial head of a cash-strapped council is set to be given a £2,500 pay rise just weeks after a decision to shut the county’s youth clubs.

A meeting of Gwynedd council’s democratic services committee today recommended that the council chair should see their pay upgraded to “band 1” status.

The role – known in some areas as the county mayor – changes hands every 12 months and involves presiding over full council meetings and representing the authority at various functions in a civic capacity.

At present, the holder is afforded “band 2” status, meaning they would receive £21,800 in 2018/19.

But, if Gwynedd’s full council accepts the committee’s recommendation when it meets on May 3, the chair’s pay will increase to £24,300.

The committee’s findings come just a month after the authority decided to introduce a new youth service model, which will see all 39 existing youth clubs replaced by a single county-wide offering in a bid to save £270,000.

Cllr Charles Wyn Jones, who proposed the pay rise during this morning’s meeting, said: “Having fulfilled the role myself, I know that the council chair usually has to attend at least 40 functions a year, many of which take place in the daytime.

“I feel the title holder should be paid more than the committee chairs, simply due to the number of hours they have to put into the role.

“I know the role only lasts a year, but it involves putting in many hours.”

Cllr Dewi Owen, also a former council chair, echoed his sentiments: “Living in Aberdyfi and having to travel to functions in places such as Bangor, it meant having to stay over in bed and breakfasts and many hours of travel time in order to do the job properly.”

The new council chair, succeeding Cllr Annwen Daniels, will be selected by county councillors next month.

Meanwhile, all 75 Gwynedd councillors will receive a £200 pay rise to £13,600 a year, in line with the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales’ (IRPW) findings for the 22 Welsh authorities.

Questioning the panel’s findings, Menai Bangor councillor Catrin Wager said: “I do feel that at a time when cuts are being made, an extra £200 for every member is questionable.

“Is there anything we can do apart from accept this?”

In response, democratic services manager Vera Jones confirmed that members could choose to waive the automatic pay rise by informing the authority in writing.

There will be no change in the salaries of the council leader and deputy, which will remain at £48,300 and £33,800 respectively.

Members of the cabinet will be paid £29,300 a year, and £22,300 for committee chairs.

The final decision on member salaries will be formally rubber stamped during Gwynedd’s full council meeting on May 3.”

Claire Wright and Martin Shaw fighting heroically for our NHS

Thank heavens we have Claire Wright and Martin Shaw fighting so hard for our NHS on a daily basis and don’t have to leave the fight to Swire, Diviani, Sarah Randall-Johnson and East Devon Tories – or there would be no fight at all!!!

Holding NHS Property Services to account:

Getting those winter performance figures that Randall-Johnson was happy to wait months for:

Social care not working:

Ambulance service under intense pressure due to cost-cutting:

Decisions on community hospitals:
Health Scrutiny hears there will be no precipitate decisions on community hospitals – local conversations with CCG and RD&E offer chance to shape ‘place-based health systems’ around towns

Declining performance:
Devon’s health system’s declining performance over last 12 months – and Health Scrutiny still waiting for winter crisis evidence

Another council refers its hospital closure to Secretary of State

“The future of the inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital is going to the top, after councillors voted to refer the matter to the Health Secretary.

After the joint executive board of the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) last month voted unanimously in favour of permanently closing the inpatient ward and shaping the existing services around a Health and Wellbeing Centre at the hospital, the proposed closure of the 12 beds was discussed by Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee this morning.

And now that closure is on hold and the final decision rests with the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. The aim of today’s meeting was to decide if the consultation with the committee had been adequate; if the committee felt the proposal would not be in the best interests of the health service in Northumberland; and therefore it it had sufficient evidence of these concerns to make a referral to the Secretary of State for Health. And as part of her statement to members, Katie Scott, from the Save Rothbury Community Hospital campaign group, reflected on this first issue.

“Surely at all stages the scrutiny committee should have been consulted? It seems to us that you have been ignored,” she said. “I believe today is the first opportunity in over 14 months for the committee to fully examine the proposal to take away our beds.”

She also questioned the reasons put forward by the CCG for the proposed closure – the alleged savings, bed underuse and the drive to treat people in their own homes – claiming all are flawed, as well as saying the consultation has been ‘defective’.

However, Stephen Young, Northumberland CCG’s strategic head of corporate affairs, outlined the lengthy process of consultation, including with the committee, and explained that it was made clear to councillors that there was no local support for the proposed closure. He added: “We believe there’s alternative, suitable provision in the area.” His colleague, Dr Alistair Blair, the clinical chairman, set out the clinical reasons behind the proposed closure, which included the fall in bed occupancy and the wider national context around more care being provided at home and why this was beneficial.

He added that they had been monitoring the impact on healthcare services elsewhere in Northumberland for 12 months while the ward has been shut and there have been no adverse consequences. “We understand that this does not have local support but we have to look at the evidence base,” Dr Blair said. “We hope the Health and Wellbeing Centre will benefit more local people.”

One local who benefitted from the ward prior to its closure was Coun Steven Bridgett’s grandmother – the care she received at the hospital prior to her death in 2012 was the focus of an emotional address by the local ward member: “Gran was so well looked after and cared for that you would forget that she was 91 and had most of her body failing her.”

It was his statement which probably resonated most with the Rothbury residents who had filled the council chamber at County Hall in Morpeth. “We are no more than numbers on paper to the CCG,” he said. Turning their attention to the three questions mentioned above, a majority of the committee members considered that the consultation with the committee had not been adequate as the preferred option for consultation, ie, the closure of the ward and the creation of a Health and Wellbeing Centre, was decided and the consultation started before being brought to the scrutiny committee, albeit the CCG brought the matter to the first available meeting once that decision was taken.

A majority of the councillors also felt that whether the proposal was in the best interests of the health service in Northumberland could not be fully assessed as it had not been made clear exactly what the Health and Wellbeing Centre will be and there were also questions over the robustness of the data in relation to future-proofing and knock-on impacts in the rest of the county.

Therefore, following around half-an-hour spent thrashing out their reasons amid advice from the council’s senior legal officer, members voted to refer the matter to the Secretary of State. In each case, members voted by five votes to two with one abstention.”

Bed closures at Honiton and Seaton – the final stitch-up by Tory Councillors

Councillor Martin Shaw (EDA, Colyton and Seaton) reports:

[Names of those voters have been amended – it does not affect the result]

“The 7 councillors who voted NOT to refer the decision to close Honiton and Seaton hospital beds were:

Sarah Randall-Johnson
Paul Diviani (Leader of East Devon District Council, representing Devon district councils), and county councillors
Richard Scott (Exmouth),
Rufus Gilbert,
Sylvia Russell,
Paul Crabb and
Ron Peart.

The 6 councillors who voted against this motion, i.e. to refer the decision, were Claire Wright (Otter Valley, Independent), Brian Greenslade and Nick Way (Liberal Democrat), Hilary Ackland and Carol Whitton (Labour) and Phil Twiss (Honiton, Conservative).

Jeremy Yabsley (Conservative) abstained as did John Berry. Two other Tories,
Jeffrey Trail (Exmouth) and
Philip Sanders, gave their apologies.

Six public speakers, Cllr Roger Giles (Chair of East Devon’s Scrutiny Committee), Paul Arnott (Colyton), Cllr Jan Goffey (Mayor of Okehampton), Cllr Mike Allen, Bob Sturtivant and Stephen Craddock (Honiton), spoke eloquently against the closures for two and a half minutes each. County Councillor Ian Hall (Axminster) and I also addressed the committee for five minutes each.

Three representatives of NEW Devon CCG and the RD&E (who run the hospitals and are working with the CCG) were then allowed to make a very lengthy Powerpoint presentation and contribute freely to the discussion – which none of the public speakers, Ian Hall or I were allowed to do.

Claire Wright had prepared a detailed motion to refer the closures and had submitted it to the Chair before the meeting. However when debate began, Cllr Randall Johnson chose not to call Claire to speak but called Rufus Gilbert who immediately proposed the motion not to refer, which was quickly seconded by Sylvia Russell.

This blatant manoeuvre by the Chair meant that the committee never considered point by point, as Claire’s motion would have required it to, the 14 questions on which it had asked the CCG to satisfy it. Despite an excellent report from Hilary Ackland which concluded that the CCG had failed to convince, the Committee basically abdicated its scrutiny role and blocked a referral without discussing most of the objections which we had raised.

Claire and I are planning to complain about the way the meeting was handled. If you want to watch it, it’s online at

Thank you all for your support for the hospitals over the last 9 months. Be assured, however, that this is not the end of the matter, since the CCG and RD&E are both developing ‘estates strategies’ which will centre on what to do with space freed up by the closures. “

Seaton’s new County councillor starts crowdfund £20,000 by Monday to try to save Its hospital, with £1000 personal initial donation

“‘THE newly elected county councillor for Seaton and Colyton, Martin Shaw, has launched a last ditch crowdfunding appeal to support a judicial review of the decision to close Seaton Hospital beds – and has backed it with a £1,000 of his own cash.

The appeal comes just days after Seaton Town Council ruled out its support for such a bid.

Councillor Shaw, who was elected last Thursday, said: “Solicitors are preparing a letter before action to send to the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group by the end of this week, giving the case why their decision-making was flawed.

“However Seaton Town Council has decided that it cannot underwrite the costs of this first stage of judicial review.

“The Hospital League of Friends are prevented by their constitution from underwriting them, but they have opened a special bank account and a BT MyDonate site to collect funds for a review.

Monday deadline

“I have therefore decided to launch an urgent appeal to raise the £20,000 needed to fund this first stage of a review. I am asking everyone in the area who cares about the hospital keeping its beds to donate this weekend, so that I can go to the solicitors on Monday morning and say that we have the funds to take this forward.

“I am putting in £1,000 of my own money and I will use the rest of my councillor’s allowance of £10,000 to underwrite this campaign while donations come in.

“However we need donations, large and small, in the next 48 hours, if we are going to be able to proceed on Monday.”

The Seaton Hospital and District League of Friends fundraising site is at

and in order to donate for judicial review, people must write ‘judicial review’ in the ‘personalise your donation’ box.

It is also important that people email Cllr Shaw to inform him of their donation, so that he knows how much money has been raised.

The League of Friends has said that if money is donated which is not used for judicial review, donors will have the option of having their money returned, or donating it to support the work of the hospital.”

Election purdah: expect LOTS of good news and promises next week!

Purdah for the local county council elections (and possibly a General Election if rumours are to be believed) will begin on Monday 27 March 2017. Be aware NO council (not just the county council) can ignore purdah.

You can find a useful guide here:

From this guide:

“This means that:

• In general you (this means councils and councillors) should not issue any publicity which seeks to influence voters (an exception being situations covered by legislation or regulations directing publication of information for explanatory purposes).
• Particular care should be taken during the pre-election period to abide by the Act.
• Consider suspending the hosting of third party material or closing public forums if these are likely to breach the codes of practice.
• Do not publish any publicity on controversial issues or report views on proposals in a way which identifies them with individual councillors or groups of councillors.
• Publicity relating to individuals involved directly in the election should not be published unless expressly authorised by statute.
• You are allowed to publish factual information which identifies the names, wards and parties of candidates at elections.

Although this new code supersedes the previous versions and may seem less specific, in practice your conduct should be similar to previous elections.
What this means in practice:

Publicity is deemed as “any communication, in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or to a section of the public.”

The first question to ask is ‘could a reasonable person conclude that you were spending public money to influence the outcome of the election?’ In other words it must pass the ‘is it reasonable’ test. When making your decision, you should consider the following:

You should not:
• produce publicity on matters which are politically controversial
• make references to individual politicians or groups in press releases
arrange proactive media or events involving candidates
• issue photographs which include candidates
• supply council photographs or other materials to councillors or political group staff unless you have verified that they will not be used for campaigning purposes
• continue hosting third party blogs or e-communications
• help with national political visits (as this would involve using public money to support a particular candidate or party). These should be organised by political parties with no cost or resource implications for the council.

You should also think carefully before you:
• Continue to run campaign material to support your own local campaigns. If the campaign is already running and is non-controversial (for example, on issues like recycling or foster care) and would be a waste of public money to cancel or postpone them, then continue. However, you should always think carefully if a campaign could be deemed likely to influence the outcome of the election and you should not use councillors in press releases and events in pre-election periods. In such cases you should stop or defer them. An example might be a campaign on an issue which has been subject of local political debate and/or disagreement.
• Launch any new consultations. Unless it is a statutory duty, don’t start any new consultations or publish report Findings from consultation exercises, which could be politically sensitive.


Council Notice Boards:

Councils are required to publicise details of the election and how to register to vote. Material relating to wider political issues should not be posted on of official notice boards which may be seen by members of the public. This includes publicity issued by, or on behalf of, a trade union.”