‘Shameless’ councillors told not to accept pay increase
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
A social care leader has challenged “shameless” councillors in Conwy to reject pay rises of between £800 and £2,700 a year and spend the money instead on vulnerable people in care homes.
Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, spoke out after hearing that members of Conwy County Council were in line for an increase of 4.76 % to their basic salary.
Earlier this month Mr Kreft called on the council’s cabinet to resign after they conducted a “sham review” of care home fees.
The upshot of the review was that there was no increase at all for residential care while the rate for providing intensive nursing care for people with dementia has risen by just £1 a day.
According to Mr Kreft, the councillors had already betrayed vulnerable people and were now “adding insult to injury” by even considering taking a pay rise they did not deserve.
The pay proposals would see the Leader of Conwy Council receiving a hike of £2,700 a year with the deputy getting an extra £1,890.
Committee chairs and the opposition would pocket an increase of £807 while “backbench” councillors would be given an additional £800.
Conwy county councillors considered the rise as part of a consultation put forward by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW).
Whilst councillors can’t reject the final decision of the panel, they can opt to reject the increase on an individual basis.
Mr Kreft, who was awarded his MBE for services to social care, said: “The councillors in Conwy clearly refused to do the decent thing and resign, so unless they are utterly shameless, the very least they can do is to refuse any pay increase at a time when they are starving social care of funding.
“Councils are legally obliged to provide funding that meets the real cost of providing social care, but in Conwy the fees they pay are way, way below that level.
“The First Minister pointed out before the pandemic that care homes in Wales were in a fragile financial state and their position is now even more precarious.
“It is unlawful for care homes to be run at a loss so Conwy County Council is actually imposing a stealth tax on hard-pressed, hard-working families who are having to make up the shortfall so that care homes do not go to the wall.”
Until earlier this year, Mr Kreft claimed that all six local authorities in North Wales were part of a ‘fee-fixing cartel’ which artificially suppressed care home fees at an irresponsibly low level.
But Gwynedd and Anglesey councils broke ranks and announced fee increases of up to 25% so they are now much closer to reflecting the true cost of social care.
As a result, Conwy Council pays £5,300 per year, per resident less for the care of residents with dementia than they do across the border in Gwynedd, amounting to an annual difference of £214,000 on either side of the county border.
Mr Kreft added: “I understand that a number of councillors expressed ‘discomfort’ when discussing the proposed pay increases.
“Well, I’m afraid that just doesn’t cut it. They need to come out and say explicitly that they cannot and will not accept a rise in their pay until they meet their statutory responsibilities in providing proper funding for the people in care homes and nursing homes who cannot fend for themselves.
“As part of their calculations, the council specify the exact amount providers are able to pay their staff.
“Care Forum Wales has campaigned long and hard for local authorities like Conwy to allocate enough funding so that our wonderful workforce can be properly rewarded.
“Our front-line staff rose heroically to the challenge when the pandemic struck, putting their own lives on the line to safeguard their beloved residents.
“Councillors in Conwy need to take a hard look in the mirror, examine their consciences and ask whether they or vulnerable care home residents are the most deserving. I know where my vote goes.”
The pay increases proposed are as follows:
Basic Salary – increase from £16,800 to £17,600
Leader – increase from £56,700 to £59,400
Deputy Leader – increase from £39,690 to £41,580
Executive Members – increase from £34,020 to £35,640
Committee Chairs (including leader of the largest opposition group) – increase from £25,593 to £26,400
Civic Head – increase from £25,593 to £26,400
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