Haringey hits the most vulnerable

Peter M and Jason and Joe 2

Haringey’s three amigos: Arthur, Goldberg and Morton

On 23 February 2015 the majority Labour group voted in Full Council to slash a drastic £24.5m off Adult Services, which would see all council residential and day centres in the borough bar one shut by 2018, posing a serious threat to service users with severe dementia, physical and learning disabilities and mental illness.1 This followed the Labour Council’s closure of eight day centres and six residential homes between 2011 and 2014. The Council has yet to announce what will replace these closed facilities.

To these cuts were added smaller but no less severe cuts to provisions for early years, services for young people, special educational needs and public health.

Many carers, users and local residents concerned about these developments asked how is it that Haringey Labour Council, committed to greater equality and protecting the vulnerable, unanimously passed a budget that hits the most vulnerable whilst leaving the majority of residents barely touched? This question goes to the heart of local democracy and its ability to represent the interests of the most vulnerable and suggests that the present system of local democracy — whether Labour, Tory or LibDem — can no longer be relied on to protect vulnerable children and adults.

So why is this? First, all labour councillors are subject to the party whip. A vote against the cuts would result in deselection, councillors forfeiting their candidacy at the next election. A handful of Labour members on scrutiny panels publically pledged to vote against the cuts, but when push came to shove they fell into line.

Secondly, over half Labour Councillors joined in May last year for the first time (see Table below), including those playing a leading role in arguing for the cuts. Council Leader Claire Kober personally hand-picked (they were not elected) several members to Cabinet with virtually no experience of Haringey council’s complex affairs and more inclined to toe the Leader’s line. This included Councillors Arthur who proposed the package of budget cuts on the 23 February and Morton who proposed the adult social care cuts. Many novice councillors were probably surprised to find themselves elected to public office having won seats from LibDem councillors following the collapse in LibDem support at the 2014 election. There is no public test local residents can apply to assess the knowledge and expertise of their councillors, who arrive with little knowledge of government policy but receive handsome rewards for merely attending meetings and voting as told. Members of the public attending the Full Council noted how novice councillors passed the time in conversation and mirth, which bore testimony to the seriousness of their motivation.

Thirdly, councillors from top to bottom receive generous allowances with strong financial incentives to vote in the party’s interests not the interests of the vulnerable should the two conflict. Were Labour councillors to vote against the cuts and be deselected, they would lose very substantial allowances and suffer radical changes to their lifestyle.

How substantial these allowances are is seen in the Table below listing the names of each councillor who voted in favour of the cuts and the total allowances they receive. Haringey Council’s website shows that Council Leader Claire Kober is entitled to £41,997. In addition she receives payments for other duties including £10,500 as Deputy Leader of London Councils and £8029 as Deputy Chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, a total of £60,525 per an.. Her eight Cabinet members, such as Peter Morton and Jason Arthur who argued unashamedly in favour of the cuts, is each entitled to £34,122 and the Chief Whip (Liz McShane) to £26,250.

These amounts include the basic allowance for all councillors of £10,500 and Special Responsibility Allowances ranging from £7875 to £31,497 for additional duties such as chairing area and other committees and sitting in Kober’s Cabinet. The total amount Labour Councillors receive in Haringey allowances is just under £1 million per annum. Add in the allowances received by 9 LibDems and the total is well over one million. The total cost of allowances, including travel and child care, in 2013-14 was £1,069,015 – all paid for by local residents. SASH will update this information when the Council publishes allowances received in 2014-15 including allowances to new councillors elected in May 2014.

With 20 plus Labour councillors receiving allowances between £18k and £60.5k a year, many are on higher wages than the residents they represent. Haringey’s councillors represent one of the richer salariats in the borough.

A councillor’s work is hard for which they are entitled to receive remuneration. But financial allowances change the material interests that motivate councillors to perform a public service on behalf of Haringey residents. Financial incentives should change so that with a different system of incentives councillors would be more likely to deliver policies that take the disabled seriously.

Undoubtedly local councils have been hit hard by Coalition Government cuts to local government spending and have borne the brunt of public spending reductions since 2010. The Local Government Association’s analysis suggest that London local government could see a 60 per cent real terms reduction in core funding between 2010/11 and 2018/19, suggesting that local government is only half way through the total savings programme. However, Haringey Council could have opted for different savings rather than clobber adult care so heavily.

Labour’s care cuts will leave an irreversible legacy for the Borough for years to come. By 2018 if budget plans are implemented there will be no council residential homes and day centres except one. Haringey’s savage cuts in adult social care of £24.5m are way more than in neighbouring councils: eg Barnet’s adult care cuts of £16.7m (a model of outsourced care Haringey is now bent on following), Camden’s £16m and Islington’s £11m.

Martin Hewitt

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[1] Minutes for Full Council on 23 February 2015 record 42 Labour councillors voting in favour of the motion to implement budget cuts between 2015 and 2018; six Labour councillors were absent; eight LibDem councillors votes against the motion and one abstained.

 COUNCILLORS PRESENT ON 23 FEB 15 – HOW THEY VOTED AND WHAT THEY GET
Total Allowance Entitlements 2014-15 (£s) Date became councillor
Charles Adje 24,817 07/05/1998 –
Peray Ahmet 26,250 22/05/2014 –
Eugene Akwasi-Ayisi 10,500 22/05/2014 –
Kaushika Amin 26,250 04/05/2006 –
Jason Arthur 34,122 22/05/2014 –
Dhiren Basu 10,500 05/05/1994 –
Patrick Berryman 10,500 22/05/2014 –
John Bevan 10,500 02/05/2002 –
Barbara Blake 24,817 22/05/2014 –
Mark Blake 10,500 22/05/2014 –
Gideon Bull 31,979 07/12/2000 –
Vincent Carroll 10,500 22/05/2014 –
Joanna Christophides 26,250 10/05/2010 –
Ali Demirci 34,122 04/05/2006 –
Natan Doron 10,500 22/05/2014 –
Tim Gallagher 10,500 22/05/2014 –
Joe Goldberg 34,122 15/01/2009 –
Eddie Griffith 10,500 03/05/1986 – 05/05/1994, 02/05/2002 –
Makbule Gunes 10500 22/05/2014 –
Kirsten Hearn 24817 22/05/2014 –
Emine Ibrahim 10500 22/05/2014 –
Adam Jogee 18375 22/05/2014 –
Claire Kober 60,525 04/05/2006 –
Toni Mallett 10500 04/05/2006 –
Jennifer Mann 10500 22/05/2014 –
Stuart McNamara 34122 10/05/2010 –
Liz McShane 26250 22/05/2014 –
George Meehan 26250 06/05/1971 – 06/05/1982, 06/05/1982 – 01/05/1986, 03/05/1990 – 05/05/1998, 05/05/1998 –
Peter Morton 34122 22/05/2014 –
Ali Gul Ozbek 10500 22/05/2014 –
James Patterson 10500 22/05/2014 –
Sheila Peacock 10500 05/05/1994 –
Lorna Reith 18375 23/01/2003 –
Reg Rice 18375 02/05/2002 – 04/05/2006, 10/05/2010 –
James Ryan 10500 22/05/2014 –
Raj Sahota 10500 22/05/2014 –
Anne Stennett 18375 10/05/2010 –
Alan Strickland 34122 10/05/2010 –
Bernice Vanier 34122 05/05/1994 – 07/05/1998, 07/05/1998 – 02/05/2002, 04/05/2006 –
Ann Waters 34122 10/05/2010 –
Elin Weston 10500 22/05/2014 –
Charles Wright 10500 22/05/2014 –
Total £846,652
NOT PRESENT ON 23 FEB 15
Gina Adamou 18,375 03/05/1990 –
Clare Bull 18,375 22/05/2014 –
Isidoros Diakides 18,375 05/05/1994 –
Joseph Ejiofor 10,500 10/05/2010 –
Denise Marshall 10500 22/05/2014 –
Felicia Opoku 18375 22/05/2014 –
Total £94,500

 

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