Tower Hamlets Mayor and councillors award themselves inflation-busting pay rise

Pay-rise: John Biggs, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets. Photograph: Dan McCurry

Tower Hamlets councillors have voted themselves an inflation-busting 5 per cent pay rise.

The increase bumps up their basic allowance from £10,390 to £10,938 a year.

The changes, put forward by the majority Labour group, also increase allowances for positions of special responsibility and the Mayor’s Allowance.

The plans were given the thumbs-up at yesterday evening’s Annual Council Meeting at the Town Hall, and came into effect today (19 May).

Cllr Peter Golds, Leader of Tower Hamlets Conservatives, has received a 40 per cent increase in his Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) from £5,709 to £8,000.

Leader of the Independent Group Cllr Oliur Rahman will see his allowance jump from £10,502 to £11,300.

Mayor John Biggs was due an extra £7,906 as his pay was to rise from £67,094 to £75,000. But he has announced he will only accept half of this increase, making an allowance of £71,047.

Questions have been raised over whether the pay rises are too generous.

Local anti-corruption campaigner Cathy Holmes said: “It’s disgusting. They get paid enough for what they do. They should sort everything else out before give themselves pay rises.

“The council needs to get its priorities and finances in order first. There are loads of issues, from the bottom to the top, [for example] payments to charities that don’t exist any more. These things are just being swept under the carpet.

“The commissioners are still in place in the council so there are obviously still problems.”

Commenting on Mayor Biggs accepting only half his pay rise, Ms Holmes said the gesture was “not enough”.

The plans are designed to ensure allowances “better reflect the workloads and responsibilities of members from all parties”, the council papers state.

Andy Erlam, the lead election petitioner in the Tower Hamlets fraud case, said: “I think it stinks!”

Under the new scheme an allowance for designated mayoral advisers has been created (£7,000) and the number of SRAs for leading scrutiny committee members have been cut. The Mayoral Advisors are Helal Uddin, Dave Chesterton and Denise Jones.

The changes may come as a surprise to members of Tower Hamlets Independent Group. In 2011 the then Mayor Lutfur Rahman (Independent Group) had his salary slashed from £75,000 to £65,000 after the Labour party put forward an amendment to have it cut.

Positions of special responsibility include cabinet member and committee chair roles.

Details of the changes can be found in the council agenda papers.

Tower Hamlets Council was approached for comment and had not responded at time of publication.