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.
 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 –|
|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 –|