Expanded city council cabinet to cost taxpayers extra £6k

The number of cabinet members at Stoke-on-Trent City Council has been increased to 10 - costing taxpayers an extra £6,000 a year. There were previously eight full cabinet members on the Labour-controlled authority, along with four cabinet support members.

Now council leader Jane Ashworth has announced a reshuffle of her executive team, which sees support members Sarah-Jane Colclough and Finlay Gordon-McCusker promoted to full cabinet members. The new cabinet now has 10 full members - the maximum allowed under council rules - plus one part-time cabinet support member.

Steve Blakemore is a new cabinet support member, while Diane Williams and Glen Watson are no longer serving in that role. The changes will see the overall cost of the cabinet's special responsibility allowances increase from £147,000 to £153,000 a year.

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Councillor Ashworth says the expanded cabinet reflects the priorities in the council's new corporate strategy.

She said: "My first year as leader has seen many challenges but also many successes. The cabinet is a team, and like a good team, it's important that we make sure everyone is in the right place on the field. The changes reflect the interests and skills of cabinet leads and our priorities identified in the corporate strategy. We will continue to work hard for the good of the city and residents, to lead with care and kindness, and to support our businesses and economy to thrive."

Cllr Colclough is now cabinet member for education and anti-poverty, while Cllr Gordon-McCusker has responsibility for transport, infrastructure and regeneration. Deputy council leader Amjid Wazir will remain the cabinet member for city pride and enforcement, but will also now have responsibility for sustainability.

Special responsibility allowances (SRAs) are payments made to councillors holding specific roles, on top of the basic allowance of £12,000 paid to each elected member. Cabinet members are responsible for setting the political direction of the council with responsibility for developing the authority's budget and policies.

Full cabinet members are paid an SRA of £12,000, while cabinet support members receive £6,000. The council leader and deputy leader receive £36,000 and £18,000 respectively.

The council's constitution states that the cabinet will consist of the leader and up to nine cabinet members, although in recent years it has been less than this. The previous Conservative administration had seven full cabinet members and two support members.

But the current annual cost of the cabinet is down on the £159,000 it was in October, when the last 'formal' appointments were made. Back then there were nine full cabinet members and four cabinet support members.

Opposition Conservative group leader Dan Jellyman criticised the expansion of the cabinet, saying it was not necessary.

He said: "A cabinet of 10 councillors is not needed. It's another example of the Labour council using taxpayers' money to line their own pockets. When money is tight, one easy saving to make is to reduce the number of cabinet members. Labour have done the exact opposite."

The new cabinet line-up is:

Jane Ashworth - Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Strategy, Economic Development, Culture & Sport

Amjid Wazir - Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for City Pride, Enforcement and Sustainability

Sarah Jane Colclough - Cabinet Member for Education and Anti-Poverty

Sarah Hill - Cabinet Member for Children’s Services (Lead Member for Children’s Services)

Finlay Gordon-McCusker - Cabinet Member for Transport, Infrastructure and Regeneration

Lynn Watkins - Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing

Alastair Watson - Cabinet Member for Financial Sustainability and Corporate Services

Chris Robinson - Cabinet Member for Housing and Planning

Dave Williams - Cabinet Member for Safe and Resilient Communities

Duncan Walker - Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care

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