It was interesting to see the Brent Labour Group accounts for 2022, local election year, that were presented at the recent AGM. The accounts are straight-forward and there is nothing 'dodgy' in them as far as I can see but they do have implications for local democracy.
Most elected councillors, from whatever political party, pay a contribution from their allowance (not 'pay') to their party. In 2022 that contribution by Brent Labour councillors totalled c£95,000 while campaigning costs in election year were slightly higher at c£98,000.
The basic councillor allowance is not huge but can be built up with additional allowances for chairing committes, Brent Connects etc as well as special allowances for the leader and cabinet membership.
There is an unfortunate side effect of this in that there is an incentive to maximise the Labour Group income by awarding as many such positions to Labour councillors as possible. Hence the failure of opposition moves early in the new administration to appoint Scrutiny Committee chairs from the opposition benches. Such appointment may be good for local democracy but not good for the coffers...
There is also an incentive, within the limited overall budget of more than £1m annually, to create additional positions that carry an allowance.
Over the 4 year period of the current administration the total accrued to Labour Group funds will be c£380,000. This is a significant fund and gives Labour a distinct advantage over other local parties for campaigning at the next election although there are statutory limits to such expenditure. As long as Labour gains election success an in-year loss in election year can be more than recovered.
A further issue suggested by Labour insiders is that because most additional appointments are made by the Leader rather than elected by the group, it gives him/her considerable control over the current and potential financial well-being of members. Displeasing the leader may mean little chance of achieving a position in the adminstration that carries an additional allowance.
NOTE - the 2023-24 appointments are on the Agenda for the Brent Council AGM on Wednesday 17th May but details have not yet been published in the Appendices. The General Purpose Committee consists of Cabinet members plus one opposition councillor.