The big event today is the re-convened AGMA Executive board adjourned from last Friday when we continue to debate investment in Greater Manchester's transport infrastructure but more on that tomorrow when I know what the outcome is.
For the benefit of bcprs I have no Dire Straits in my record/CD collection but it would be the ideal name for an all-party House of Commons rock band given the current, wholly justified furore over MP's expenses. Every time one of these issues erupts those of us politicians in local government tend to get tarred with the same brush so I thought I would set the record straight as far as Manchester City Council is concerned.
We abolished our expenses system in the early 1990s and now any travel or subsistence costs incurred within the city's boundaries are expected to be met from our relatively modest (especially compared to MPs) councillors allowances scheme, which is set by an external independent panel. Councillors taking on additional responsibilities within the Council like Executive Members, the Leader of the Opposition, Chairs of Planning and Licensing receive additional allowances reflecting the significant additional time they have to put in. The biggest allowance, not surprisingly, is the Leader's, and whilst that's a long way from the poverty line it puts the office holder nowhere near the top hundred salaries in the City Council.
Councillors of course do occasionally have to travel outside the city on Council business, me more than most. Indeed as an International City trying to survive and thrive in the global economy, we sometimes even travel to other countries, but we try and make sure that for all journeys outside the city all transport, accommodation and other costs are met directly by the Council - not through expenses claims. All Councillors get limited administration support (quantity not quality) but again that's from officers employed directly by the Council not by councillors themselves. The upshot of this is that the vast majority of councillors in Manchester will never claim a penny in expenses and long may it remain that way.