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Council backs leader’s £6,000 rise

COPELAND Council’s Labour leader Elaine Woodburn is to get a pay rise of more than £6,000 for carrying out a "unique" role handling nuclear issues.

increase: Elaine Woodburn

But Copeland Council was split over the decision to award Labour's Elaine Woodburn a 30 per cent increase, pushing her annual special responsibility allowance up to £25,534.

Coun Woodburn will get an extra £6,606 after Labour members at last night's full council meeting in Whitehaven carried the vote. Conservative councillors voted against.

Leading Tory councillors were accused of making a personal attack against the long-serving leader, who represents Egremont North, and there were some heated exchanges at Thursday night's meeting before the increase was approved - by 27 votes to 11.

It will be Coun Woodburn's first rise for four years and was recommended by an independent remuneration panel.

Executive Labour councillor Allan Holliday said Copeland's leader did an exceptional job working up to 60 hours a week. "The role role is unique especially given the complex nuclear issues," he pointed out.

But Whitehaven Tory councillor for Hillcrest Stephen Haraldsen said it was 'morally repugnant' at a time when some council staff were losing their jobs due to cuts, others were having pay cut or frozen. "That one of the smallest borough council's in the UK is considering such a rise beggar's belief. Just see sense, show solidarity," he urged all councillors.

Coun Woodburn was not in the council chamber for the debate.

Coun Haraldsen, who is Copeland Constituency Association chairman, said: "I am disappointed the leader has had to leave based on what I was quoted as saying in the local press. I have no personal grudge."

Allan Holliday (Kells, Whitehaven) maintained that the Tories had made personal attacks which were "absolutely disgraceful." Tory group leader David Moore also said his comments were not personal or meant to be.

"But as employers we have people wondering whether they are going to keep jobs, there will be redundancies over the next few year, singe status means winners and losers, some staff will have to make pay cuts, so a 30 per cent rise is way out of line when most people are lucky if they get two or three per cent," he said.

"Councillors allowances are frozen, I expect that,Freezing is the right course of action right across the board."

Coun Moore insisted that the leader's present £18,928 special allowance was a fair reward. "If we accept this increase people out there will think badly of us. It is all about making savings, this is not a saving in any way, we just can't go to this sort of exorbitance."

Former Sellafield trades union leader John Kane said: "Without a doubt the leader of the council is a full-time occupation. Would anyone in full-time employment give up their job for their salary, I certainly wouldn't have done. I do sympathise with council staff what they are going through, the uncertainty, times are hard, but what we have here is responsibility and accountability, the buck has to stop with someone.

"Given the circumstances, a lot of people are actually surprised at how little the leader is on at the moment."

Coun Haraldsen said: "I am not ashamed of what I say, I chose my words very carefully. Everything I have said is about the uncertainty of a £6,000 increase when we are freeezing the pay of hard working officers of this council."

The vote at the end of long arguments was recorded. All the Tories voted against bar two who abstained, Labour's big majority held sway - and Coun Woodburn returned to the chamber for the rest of the meeting.

Have your say

Joe, the legacy Elaine Woodburn is leaving is not one to be proud of.

Posted by Alex on 28 March 2012 at 20:50

Pathetic is the only word I can come up with for the people who come to the 'rescue' of our hard working council supposed leader. Please do not assume the majority of people are as gullible as yourselves, we are not. Keep your trite thoughts to yourselves re this rip-off. Pathetic, inner circle commisariat decisions being made behind closed doors without the presence of the council 'leader', and certainly not with the backing of the majority of the more sensible thinking people of this area. When are the people who have the vote and hopefully more than two brain cells going to get rid of these people? Not for a long time no doubt. For the third time, pathetic.

Posted by Observer on 28 March 2012 at 20:35

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