Opinion: Pickles pensions off councillors

The winning Kendal Town CouncillorsSome of you may have heard this brief anecdote before.

Some years ago a civil servant appeared in St Albans attempting to sell some ‘new’ ideas from the Government of the day about local government. He stood up before various district and county councillors in Hertfordshire and announced that ‘in future the Government wanted councillors to represent the people to the town hall rather than the other way round.’

He said it without malice or irony and as a result was not lynched – turning up some years later to dismantle the Audit Commission.

The ability of the Department for Communities and Local Government or its ministers to understand or indeed wilfully misrepresent local government is remarkable.

Most recently Eric Pickles, a man who does not do irony at all but has plenty of malice, announced the abolition of pensions for councillors as part of the 2013-2014 local government spending settlement.

It is worth examining his words closely:

‘We have also announced today that further savings will be made by the abolition of pensions for councillors.

‘Councillors should be champions of the people, not the salaried staff of the town hall state.’

This can be simply unpicked: if you receive the benefits of an employee (a pension or an income that allows you not to work outside the council) then you are not, in his opinion, a champion of the people.

This presumably applies not only to those people doing a fulltime job like council leaders and sometimes their opposite numbers but also to directly elected mayors, who are also expected to do a full-time job and whose usefulness Pickles has championed in his absurd Localism Act.

It also, of course, applies to MPs and ministers, including people like Pickles. There are times that hypocrisy is so breathtaking that you have to pause a moment to admire it.

Consistency, of course, has never been Pickles’s strong suit but on this occasion there is another recent statement which reveals his thinking. He recently told the Communities and Local Government Select Committee that he had inherited a department that was ‘the voice of local government within government’ and that was now ‘the voice of the council tax payer, of the citizen inside local government services.’

Some of us are still old-fashioned enough to believe that the voice of the taxpayer is the voter and that the mechanism for that voice to be heard is through the local government ballot box and not through a remote and entirely partisan person in Whitehall advised by civil servants who have for the most part never had a minute’s experience in a town or county hall.

That voice will be heard less and less as there are fewer and fewer councillors around who can afford to devote years of their lives and sacrifice their (pensionable) careers to serving the very people that Pickles absurdly claims he represents.

* This post was commissioned by the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors; Chris White is a member of the ALDC management committee.

* Chris White is a Hertfordshire County Councillor and Deputy Leader (Policy) of the Liberal Democrat Group at the Local Government Association

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25 Comments

  • Graham Evans 8th Jan '13 - 10:00am

    While there may be a case for paying elected mayors a salary, bearing in mind that they are in effect the chief executive of the council – whether you think that is a good thing or a bad thing is a different matter – I see no justification for councillors receiving salaries, much less pensionable payments. It changes the whole relationship between officers, who should be responsible for organisational matters and implementing the policies of the council, and councillors, who should be concerned with policy development, and being a spokesperson for the areas they represent. This should not be a full-time role. Indeed, as councils have increasingly lost many of their discretionary financial powers, and become little more than agents of central government, it can be argued that councillors have less and less control over the activities of their councils, and little ability to radically influence the activities and priorities of the councils on which they sit. I accept that people’s careers can adversely be affected by becoming a local councillor, but throughout life people make career choices not simply based on what pays best, but also on the satisfaction they derive from what they do. The logic of paying councillors salaries is that we should also be paying volunteers who run the local gardening club, historic preservation societies, amateur dramatic societies, whose who serve as church wardens – the list is endless. Involvements in local politics can be a worthwhile and socially rewarding activity, but it should not claim a greater share of financial resources than many other contributors to the “Big Society”.

  • This policy would not pass without Lib Dem support.

    You cannot heap all the blame on Pickles. His idea, your MP’s endorse it.

  • Graham – If we stopped paying councillors at all, you would simply end up with the rich or the retired as councillors. There are many councillors who lose pay and / or promotion opportunities at work as a result of having to go to meetings at a time when they should be working (this isn’t just about councils who meet during the day which is a lot of them, but also about people who work shifts). This is something that simply doesn’t apply to the members of the local gardening club. I know some very good councillors who couldn’t afford to do it without the allowance.

  • Prior to being elected in May I worked full time as a nurse on a hospital ward. In a large principal authority like Leeds I would not have been (and have not been able) to hold down a full time job and function as a councillor. I now work as a bank nurse within the NHS (on less per hour than I got in my substantive job) when I have to work nights and weekends to supplement my flat rate allowance. Failure to do this would effect my family of which I have two young children. I believe my community like the fact that I look like them – normal job, family, worries about future, concerns about health, education etc but without the allowance I would not be able to be a councillor.
    As already stated if you want ‘real people’ rather than just the rich or people who have the time and few other responsibilities to represent their communities then that is ok but then not moan about a lack of diversity in democracy.

  • Richard Shaw 8th Jan '13 - 12:45pm

    A councillor friend of mine, who like many – if not most councillors – is retired, once worked out their total expenditure incurred through their councillor activities and found that, even with a £10,000 allowance, they were working full-time for the equivalent of *minus* £0.17p per hour.

    Even if you strongly believe in public service and enjoy the work of being a councillor, it places a significant burden on finances, on family life and many other things, in a way that other volunteer activities or hobbies do not. Small wonder that councils are dominated by the retired, those whose children have left home or people who are wealthy enough that they can still afford to live while ‘volunteering’ full-time as an elected councillor.

    Councillors should receive allowances which cover the full amount of the council-related expenditure, within reason of course, or perhaps even should receive the equivalent full-time minimum wage (without allowance or expenses). I don’t believe the “public service” argument should mean they aren’t fairly remunerated – that argument would apply to the devoted public servants working in the public sector, no?

  • @ Richard Shaw

    “Councillors should receive allowances which cover the full amount of the council-related expenditure”

    I have to disagree, councillors should receive reimbursement for expenses incurred (with receipts). If you want to pay them a salary as well, that should be clearly separate and expenses should never be pensionable.

    The confusion of politicians who mix up expenses, allowances and salaries was one of the driving factors for the MPs expenses scandal. Normal working people deal with salaries and expenses reimbursement, the whole concept of allowances is dangerous as it becomes a back door to doing something that politicians want to hide from the voters. This later blows up in future generations of politician’s faces, damaging the democratic process in the process.

  • In fairness to that civil servant (and I know posting anonymousily isn’t great but I hope I do so for obvious reasons), our council group contains a councillor who recently, in a personal performance review, would not budge from the notion that he saw himself as the representative of the council in his ward.

    What made that even more bizzare is that we’re currently in opposition.

  • >If we stopped paying councillors at all, you would simply end up with the rich or the retired as councillors.
    Not quite we would also get those who are sponsored by various special interest groups such as the “Labour Cooperative Councillors”. As for the retired, well with the changing economic climate these will be fewer and even older than they are today. So we could expect our councils to become less diverse and have a much narrower experience of life.

    However, given that Councillors (and potentially MP’s) are effectively elected for a fixed term there are grounds for the renumeration to reflect this, so that their package includes a contribution to a personal pension – although this might prove embarrassing given that for it to be meaningful it would currently have to be around 23~25% of annual salary (ie. the real cost of a pension) rather than a token %6 employee contribution.

    Going off on a tangent, perhaps the next step will be for the government to do to the local government pension scheme (which I understand is presently solvent) the same as it did to the Post Office scheme, namely took (and spent) the accumulated capital and left the pensioners with an IOU that we can expect will be reneged on by some future government…

  • jenny barnes 8th Jan '13 - 2:54pm

    You might also get councillors who saw some way of making a personal profit out of their councillor activities. “Our friends from the North” for example. And I used to live in a city where it was well known that the Leader of the Council, who owned a building/ road mending company, was doing very well indeed from council contracts. While he was in control, his fleet of lorries grew very large.

  • Richard Shaw 8th Jan '13 - 3:09pm

    @Psi

    I may not have been clear; I was suggesting councillors should receive either an allowance which covers their incurred expenses or a minimum-wage salary, not both.

  • Martin Curry 8th Jan '13 - 3:17pm

    As a former councillor of 16 years standing, I welcomed the extension of the local government scheme to councillors on the basis of their allowance. For many years years previous to its introduction, the treasury defined the allowance as EARNED INCOME by insisting that it was liable for, and had National Insurance deducted from the amount as well as income tax.

    If the government is going to remove the right to enroll in the pension scheme, they should logically therefore stop deducting NI from councillors allowances.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Jan '13 - 3:22pm

    Yes, perhaps the one thing that made me more angry than anything else when I was a councillor was those times I was canvassing and was met on the doorsteps with “Oh, you’re only doing it for what you can get out of it”. While I always made sure I put my full hours into my day job, doing no more than that and putting so much energy into being a councillor almost wrecked my career, and certainly lost me promotion opportunities which over a lifetime, including the higher pension those promotions would have led to, would have brought to me many times what I was paid in councillor’s allowances.

    I suspect I am like many other people in that the increasing regime of target setting and weakening of job security in the job that pays my salary means I can no longer, as I could when I was first elected, make the career decision simply to do what the job requires on paper, not to try for promotion, but instead put my energies into voluntary work. Nowadays, if you do that, you face the real possibility of being sacked. So, what’s said here applies also to much else voluntary “Big Society” work. If you want a Big Society where able people volunteer to help out voluntarily, don’t impose a work regime where anyone who doesn’t work themselves in to exhaustion is deemed not be working hard enough. In the public sector, that is what “target setting” has done.

    If you want councillors who can bring current professional experience into the role, you have to pay for it. If you don’t, you will only get the retired, those from such a wealthy background that money doesn’t matter, or those who are so obsessive about their politics that they don’t mind living as paupers to do it.

    People moan about politicians being out of touch, but if there’s no career path into it that pays enough to keep one going what is to be expected? For the same reason as giving up being a councillor I gave up trying to become a PPC. There’s no way I could do what this party demands of its PPCs and keep the job that pays my salary.

  • Having been a councillor in Scotland for five years until May last year, I would just like to wholeheartedly and entirely disagree with the comments of Graham Evans (and others.)

    When I was elected in 2007, Scotland introduced salaries for the first time to try to encourage more people to stand. The salary was initially £15,000 p.a., and has subsequently gone up to just over £16,000. It certainly did encourage more to stand – those who already had comfortable pensions and those who were self-employed. For people like me, who with a family and mortgage couldn’t afford the significant drop in salary if I had resigned my full-time job, it meant sacrificing holidays to attend meetings, having to miss daytime meetings, and generally knowing that I was not and could not be as effective a councillor as I could have been. It was no surprise to me that the councillors who, like me, chose to step down in 2012 having been elected in 2007 in my local area were those who were trying to juggle full-time jobs as well as our council commitments.

    Graham stated that “It changes the whole relationship between officers, who should be responsible for organisational matters and implementing the policies of the council, and councillors, who should be concerned with policy development, and being a spokesperson for the areas they represent.” In my experience, it does not. Indeed, it actually allows councillors to spend more time reviewing reports, questioning officers, and getting into their wards. I wasn’t able to engage myself in budget discussions as much as I would have liked, simply because I did not have the time to do it properly. Had I been a full time councillor, with salary, I would have been able to do so.

    Graham suggests that because councils’ powers are being taken away, there’s little for them to do so there’s no point in paying councillors. As a Liberal Democrat, I would argue the opposite – we should be calling for councils to have more powers devolved to them from Westminster / Edinburgh / Cardiff and making sure that we have in place the councillors who are willing and able to exercise these powers fully. And as for likening a councillor to being the chair of the local gardening club, that’s just simply stupid. When did a gardening club take decisions on £40 million building projects, such as a new school, or have to consider a £800 million spending budget?

    Councillors should play just a significant role in the political and community life of the country as MPs, MSPs, AMs and others. They are, however, the only ones who do so at a detriment to their personal finances and lives.

  • Councillors in my own and family’s experience are only there to promote themselves in their political carers, many brown nosing their way. The worst thing Labour did was to pay them. Ever since, they have put their noses in the trough for more. My own council, awarding themselves free laptops and other perks while making workers redundant is just one small example. It does not matter what political party they stand for and in a lot of cases they will go to the party where they can get on, exactly as MPs do. My 86 year old mother’s councillor crosses the street before he gets to her house because she asked for help and he did nothing, both he and his wife are councillors, it is a family business. They do very nicely according to the published expenses and allowances. They are ‘Labour’ so this is not an attack on a LIbdem! Another example of a Tory councillor doing nothing was taken to the Ombudsman who said that councillors do not have to do anything! That unfortunately will be many peoples experience.

  • David Allen 8th Jan '13 - 6:54pm

    Councillors very often do nothing. Often that is because the angry person demanding that they do something is simply in the wrong. And often it is because the council have already fixed their policy, and will not listen to a councillor who asks that it be changed.

    And often it is because they would really like to do something, but council officers put obstacles in their path, because council officers do not want to be subject to oversight by councillors. Ironically, they can sometimes be so obstructive that councillors are motivated to chase after them, because they are acting as if they had something dreadful to hide – when the truth, when it emerges, is that they just don’t want the effort of explaining their work to councillors.

    Graham Evans makes only one good point, which is that since councillors nowadays are rarely allowed to get anything useful done even if they try, paying for their existence is hard to justify.

  • Graham Evans 8th Jan '13 - 10:35pm

    Firstly, let me say that I find it distinctly odd that so many Liberal Democrats should speak of retired people serving as local councillors as though the retired came from a different world. Not only do they bring a wealth of working experience outside professional politics, but they often have children and grandchildren of their own, so are as much in touch with the needs of the communities in which they live as are those who are still of working age.

    However my main objection to councillors receiving salaries and membership of the LGPS – I am quite happy for them to receive receipted expenses and perhaps even limited loss of earnings payments like jurors – is that it fails to address the idea of the “Big Society” in practice, and instead has led to the semi-professionalisation of local politics. Thirty years ago most medium sized and large organisations, whether in the public or the private sector, accepted that it was their public duty to support employees who served on a local council, allowing them to do so with little or no loss of earnings. Indeed, for one of their employees to serve as mayor was often regarded as a particular honour. Those who took advantage of this situation probably adversely affected their long-term career prospects if they were in a professional job, but it was their choice. For those working in semi-skilled and unskilled manual jobs, being a councillor probably provided a status and level of personal satisfaction which their paid employment lacked. I therefore find it strange that in recent decades governments have imposed regulations on employers to enable working parents, and particularly women, to both raise children and pursue a working career, (and positively discouraging the concept of one parent staying “at home” while the children are growing up) yet have made no efforts change the attitudes of today’s employers towards those who wish to serve their local communities though serving on a local council. Instead, through the introduction of what are in effect councillor salaries and membership of the LGPS, governments have encouraged the semi-professionalisation of serving as a councillor. Doing so has usurped the historic role of the politically independent, professional local government officer.

    Of course, some will say that this is a tide that cannot be turned back, but there are still many examples, particularly in education, where the work of the professions is overseen by unpaid volunteers. For instance, governors of Further Education Colleges and School Academies, and Members of Boards of Universities are often responsible for millions of pounds of public expenditure but receive little or no remuneration for taking on these roles, nor is this the exclusive role of the retired or the wealthy. A few years ago the Association of Colleges (which speaks for FE colleges) surveyed governors to ascertain whether they should be paid like members of health authorities and health care trusts, and the overwhelming feeling was that they wished the role of governor to remain unpaid as it would damagingly blur the distinction between management and governance.

    While the concept of “Localism” is ostensively supported by all political parties, the practice under all governments has been to centralise and denude principal councils of any real power. Most district, borough, and county councillors now have little more real ability to fundamentally influence the way their communities develop than does a lowly parish councillor. Paying them is simply a cost with little benefit.

  • Euan Davidson 9th Jan '13 - 8:47am

    I would rather pay for a reasonable councillor’s salary allowing them to hold officers to account and spend real time in their wards than the current situation where councillors are forced to do half baked jobs because they can’t afford to give it their full attention.

  • peter.tyzack 9th Jan '13 - 2:18pm

    Like most discussions the truth lies somewhere between the extremes of views expressed above.
    I spent 24 yrs as a Councillor, first on Parish, then District, then Unitary. I spent the last 8 yrs as chair of Planning, and also representing the Council on several outside bodies. I received a basic allowance, plus a responsibility allowance for being a committee Chair, plus travel expenses(receipted). I had a council computer, and broadband line in order to function from home. Residents called on me at home and ‘surgery’ was either at my home or theirs by mutual arrangement. I got telephoned as late as 1am and as early as 7am, and very occasionally I got a small gift as a thank you for something done. I filled in passport forms for free, (the local GP charged £25). I would meet council officers on site where something needed attention in my ward, I would meet them in their office to work with them to achieve things for my residents; I would attend other meetings where matters of concern to my ward were on the agenda and speak up for my residents. I sold my business as I couldn’t do both that and council work properly. I found myself doing an average 35hr week, (I checked with a detailed time-sheet), and still in all conscience didn’t feel that I was doing all that I should have done. There was a satisfaction to doing the work and representing the community, but satisfaction doesn’t pay the bills.
    In all those years there was never any clear job description, other than the ‘role of the councillor’ in the council constitution and the ‘planning protocol’. That is where I would start in this debate, as clearly from the comments above, there are many different perceptions of what a councillor should do. As the Ombudsman rightly says, at present, legally, a councillor doesn’t ‘have’ to do anything, apart from turn up at a meeting now and then. Truly some do little more than that, but the electorate never know as their backs are covered by others, and come the election the voter will just vote with the tribe currently in the favour of the media.. as they did to me. Now I have been given the title of ‘Alderman’, that means little, and there is no pension, pay-off or redundancy. Serve one term as an MP and you ghet all of those.
    So please, stop the blather, repeating the street gossip; lets have a proper job description, then assess the job for its true value, and pay what it’s worth. ! Lets return to respecting those who put themselves forward to serve.. and yes remove quickly those who don’t perform.

  • Graham Evans 9th Jan '13 - 4:14pm

    I agree with Peter Tyzak that what we need is a proper job description for the role of a councillor so as to assess its true value. However, I fear that with our current mishmash of district councils, county councils, unitary authorities (including big city councils), and London boroughs, not to mention GLA members, and members of the Welsh Assembly, and Scottish Parliament, it would be impossible to agree on its content. Indeed in reality we all know that in an area where the district councillor comes from one party and the county councillor from another in practice they will both become involved in representing constituents on issues which technically are not the responsibility of the council on which they serve. Until we sort out the structure of local government and its relationship with Westminster we shall never agree on what a councillor is really worth, or whether in fact he or she is doing a role better undertaken by a permanent, full-time employee of the council.

  • Kay Kirkham 9th Jan '13 - 4:37pm

    Below is the text of my response to the proposal in the consultation document to remove councillors access to the LGPS. Apologies for the length .

    1. The use of the headline ‘ Abolition of taxpayer-funded pensions’ is misleading, implying that the whole pension is taxpayer funded. Councillors, like other members of the scheme, make monthly payments from their allowamces at the prevailing rate. The council then pays an additional contribution the amoutn of whihc depends upon the latest actuarial valuation.

    2. Councillors are technically employees of the council and departments from the Inland Revenue to those administering benefits regard their ‘ allowances’ as income and take no account of ‘out-of-pocket’ expenses. On this basis councillors should be allowed access to the LGPS.

    3. Many councillors compromise their earning abilityand promotion prospects in their employment in order to serve their communities. It is clear that there are too many ‘ one term’ councillors who give up because they simply cannot afford to continue. This may be especially true of younger individuals. Given the age profile of current councillors, an inability to retain younger ones does nothing to make councis representative of their communities. If earnings are reduced a coucnillor’s capacity to save for their retirement is also reduced. For this reason alone, they should have access to the LGPS. In relation to Annex E, access to the pension fund may not have an impact on the original recuitment of councillors, but it may have an influence on their retention.

    4. Annex E claims that ‘ following changes made by the last administration, allowances have slowly become a form of salary, a situation worsened by the state-funded pensions. ‘

    Allowances have always been a ‘ form of salary’. They were orginally introduced in the Local Government Act 1972 to make it possible for individuals without private means to play a full part in local democracy. The old Attendance Allowance was certainly abused with some councils having many and huge committees to maximise the income of the members but the principle was right. The change to a Basic and Special Responsibility Allowance was widely predicted ( by those who took the view that councillors were ‘ only in it for what they could get’) to make it difficult to get them to turn up to meetings. This didn’t happen because councillors took their responsibilities seriously. The suggestion that ‘Civic duty should not be bought’ is insulting to the many elected members who work tirelessly for their communities and put in many hundreds of hours on their behalf.

    5. Annex E also claims that ‘ This is a corrosive influence on local democracy and independent thought, blurring the distinction between council staff and councillors. ‘

    No evidence is cited to support this extravagent claim yet it is repeated in the section on ‘ Civic Duty’. If there has been such a ‘ blurring’ it may be because individual councillors and officers have not been fully aware of their proper roles in the organisation. We have all seen councillors who have ‘ gone native’ and officers who behave like councillors but this has everything to do with the culture of an organisation and the political organisation of the members and nothing at all to do with pension arrangements.

    6. It is breathtakingly hypocritical for MPs, who are well-paid by comparison and have access to a generous, taxpayer funded pension scheme to seek to remove pension rights from councillors. If one accepts the argument that ‘ every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to help pay off the deficit’ then councillors in the LGPS will experience the same ‘ reforms to reduce the burden on taxpayers’ as everyone else and do ‘their bit’ that way.

    7. Some councillors with heavy responsibilities are, in effect, working full time. This is not new. As Local Government has become more complex, senior members of a ruling group especially those holding Cabinet positions have found it impossible to have full time jobs.

    Annex E says ‘ We recognise that there is a greater expectation that an elected mayor is a full-time position. We therefore propose to consult on allowing elected mayors to remain in the scheme as a voluntary option (but not as an expectation), subject to local scrutiny, challenge and determination. The salaries of the mayor of London, members of the Greater London Assembly and police and crime commissioners will remain pensionable.’
    This proposal is inconsistent with the removal of access to the LGPS from councillors and discriminates against them because they are ‘part timers’.

    To conclude, it is my view that access to the LGPS for councillors was a logical and reasonable stepfor the reasons set out above, Removing it now while allowing other locally elected individuals to retain their access is unfair and dsciminatory.

  • David Allen 9th Jan '13 - 5:43pm

    Graham Evans said,

    “I find it distinctly odd that so many Liberal Democrats should speak of retired people serving as local councillors as though the retired came from a different world. … they bring a wealth of working experience”

    Of course they do. However, the Councillors as a whole should speak for the community as a whole. A substantial contingent of the retired is fine. A gross preponderance of the retired is not.

    “Thirty years ago most medium sized and large organisations, whether in the public or the private sector, accepted that it was their public duty to support employees who served on a local council, allowing them to do so with little or no loss of earnings.”

    Well, as you indicate later in your post, we are not going to turn the clock back and restore those traditions. However, if we believe that the role of a councillor can still be worthwhile and that the crucial need is for the councillor to act as a “client’s representative” – that is, a champion of what the community wants from Council staff in exchange for its tax payments – then fair enough, we need to find something to put in their place.

    A salary paid direct to the Councillor has problems. If it is far too small to live on, in line with many current councillors’ allowances these days, then it will only attract that minority of people who are prepared to live on a pittance, have independent means, or get some sort of political or union subsidy. If it is much larger, then either we must reduce the number of councillors to the point where democracy is compromised and individuals are given excessive powers, or else we incur unacceptable costs.

    What about a small (e.g. minimum wage level) salary, but with the option that the councillor can, if he/she so chooses, direct that the salary be paid (perhaps with say a 50% uprating) to the councillor’s main employer, rather than direct to the councillor?

    A councillor with that option available would be able to approach the employer and negotiate. He/she could buy the part-time release from the job that is needed to accommodate council work, thereby maintaining a reasonable work-life balance. Faced with the offer of money, the employer would be incentivised to offer the councillor a fair deal. The employer would also be far less likely to end up resenting the time the employee gave to council work, given that he had already made a decision that it should be profitable to accept the council’s payments for that time lost.

    Worth considering? If, that is, the councillor’s job can still be made worth doing?

  • Old Codger Chris 10th Jan '13 - 12:05am

    Am I right in thinking that the Lib Dems expect their councillors to pay a percentage of their allowance to the local party? That’s surely an abuse of public money and – in some cases – unfair on the councillors.

  • Kay Kirkham 10th Jan '13 - 4:07pm

    Old codger Chris

    Where it happens it is not an abuse of public money. Once the allowance has been paid, it is up to the recipient councillor how they spend it. Contributing to a fund to pay for campaigning in their ward is no different from paying the phone bill , buy supplies for the computer or running a car.

  • Chris white 11th Jan '13 - 9:05am

    Incidentally, one way of assessing the cost of being a councillor is to work out what you might have been paid (realistically, mind) had you not stymied the career you started with by going into part- or full-time politics. You don’t have to be a glittering professional to reach figures in excess of £250,000 for a councillor ‘career’ of a decade or more,

    The fact that some councillors are no good is not an argument: some doctors are no good but we don’t advocate making doctors work for free.

    Conservative Home also has piece on this which some may find interesting:
    http://conservativehome.blogs.com/localgovernment/2013/01/councillors-should-be-abolished-not-increased.html

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