Tuesday 6 July 2010

Former Tory Councillor's £230 Per Meeting "Tip"?

Councillor PJ Murphy (Lab), the newly elected representative for Hammersmith Broadway has raised concerns about Tory sleaze at his first meeting of the Audit and Pensions Committee - which met last week on the 29th June.

PJ was concerned to see that in the supplementary agenda the Audit “Committee is asked to confirm the appointment of Ms. Eugenie White as a nonvoting co-opted member”. It then ask members to agree to pay her £921 a year to attend just four meetings.

Many residents will recall that, up until 6th May 2010, Ms. White (see pic) was a Conservative Councillor for Ravenscourt Park ward.

PJ has worked as a human resources expert all over the world. He rightly asked for an explanation of what skills and knowledge were missing amongst the current committee members; what the process was for encouraging a wide range of applicants with the missing aptitudes; how Ms. White was recruited or would fill any of the missing ability gaps amongst the Committee. No satisfactory answers were provided.

Previously Hammersmith and Fulham's ruling Conservative Councillors have sought to give themselves unwarranted, inflation busting salary hikes, then the Leader of the Council tried to award himself a secret 14% salary rise. But this is the first time they have paid a non-elected Conservative larges amounts of public money.

It seems that this age of austerity does not apply to friends of H&F's Conservative Administration. The Labour Opposition are seeking a review of this appointment and I will report back shortly.

UPDATE: The Conservatives have responded to this but have tellingly only sought to take exception to our use of the word "bung". They say "a bung is a slang term for a bribe". I am very happy to confirm that we are not accusing Ms. White of seeking or taking a bribe or anything like it. I do not believe she would ever do that or (unlike some of her Tory colleagues) that she actively sought out this payment. Our criticism is aimed at the Conservative run Council. "Bung" is mostly a slang term for a "gratuity" or "tip" that would rightly be paid after a service had been provided. It is also defined as expressing how something is "thrown" or "slung" to someone. I have changed the wording in the title to clarify our position.

To be clear: we are saying that the Council's Audit and Pensions Committee deals with investments worth hundreds of millions of pounds of public money. We believe that there are serious questions still to be answered about the recruitment process which led Hammersmith and Fulham's Conservative run Council to conclude that this particular un-elected Conservative is the most suitable of all the people available to sit on this extremely important committee and to be paid this large amount of taxpayers' money per meeting.

H&F Conservatives now have a long record of finding new and creative ways to pay fellow Conservatives extra public money. I will report more on this later. Meanwhile, they argue that local people must suffer austerity, stealth taxes and cuts. All this is sleazy and the public deserve to know what's being done in their name.

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