I wrote to the Leader back in August after I received complaints from a member of the public and a voluntary sector organisation about a particular cabinet member being absent for the whole summer. I asked Cllr Robertson if he could tell me what expectations are placed on cabinet members for their work hours and how much holiday was allowed per year. I also asked him to tell me how much holiday each cabinet member had taken over the last two years.
In his reply, Cllr Robertson said:
"councillors are essentially “volunteers” who receive allowances to compensate them for the time committed and the responsibilities they undertake."It is certainly true that legally councillors are not employees in the normal sense. But when cabinet members each receive £28,828.91 from the public purse (and the Leader receives £34,660.93), surely we should be setting some sort of expectation on them in terms of the hours or days that they work. The public would certainly expect some sort of monitoring of how their money is being spent.
I used to work for Southwark Council which was, at the time, a joint Lib Dem/Conservative administration. Each of the executive members there had an expectation of full time council work and they booked holiday time like normal employees. It was not forbidden for them to have other jobs, but if they did they received proportionately less in terms of allowances. Cllr Robertson said he thought it would be 'inappropriate' to have such a scheme in Cornwall. If it is felt appropriate in Southwark (and other authorities around the country) to ensure taxpayers' money is spent wisely, why is it not here?
Just to avoid misunderstandings, I do believe that the Council's Cabinet members should be paid a special responsibility allowance and we have an independent remuneration panel which decides on the correct level. The change I want to see is for cabinet roles to be seen in practice (if not legally) as a full time job with expectations of working hours and holiday allowances accordingly.