The Wages of Soulsby

In November, the City Council will be reviewing the salaries of Leicester’s most powerful politicians, including not least Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby. Reportedly, Council officials will “appoint members to an independent panel who will determine whether politicians’ pay is increased, frozen, or perhaps reduced” (September 24, Leicester Mercury).

But in order to save the Council the time, effort, and money, I would suggest that Souslby’s wage simply be reduced to that of the salary of a normal worker in Leicester. This is the pay that that I, along with the other two parliamentary candidates for TUSC pledged to take if we had been elected to represent Leicester’s residents.

When Soulsby’s pay was last scrutinized by an “independent panel” of four influential powerbrokers (in 2011), they decided that Soulsby should be rewarded with a £44,000 pay rise.

At the time, the lead member of this panel was Martin Traynor, the CEO of the Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce; and a man who presently sits alongside assistant city mayor, Piara Singh Clair, on the board of trustees of the King Richard III Visitor Centre Trust. Just prior to making the decision to line Soulsby’s pockets, Traynor had been working closely with Leicester City Council as a board member of the private housing company, HomeCome Ltd.

Another member of the allegedly independent panel was powerful local businessman Mike Kapur, who since 2009 has been the chairman of the National Space Centre (which also counts Traynor as one of their trustees). Incidentally the Space Centre’s very development was overseen by the Leicester City Challenge programme which Soulsby proudly boasts of having “spearheaded.”

A third panel member was Dominic Shellard, who has been the chief executive of De Montfort University (DMU) since 2010 (note: Kapur has been a DMU trustee since 2009). Needless to say, Soulsby has always worked closely with DMU, and earlier this year he sold them a former Council-run youth centre (The Watershed), which used to serve the public good when it was funded (March 24, Mercury).

For obvious reasons the 2011 panel were far from independent, and it seems that the pay rise they tried to give Soulsby might be better interpreted as a reward for Soulsby’s readiness to carry through Tory cuts. But this uncalled for gift generated a massive “public outcry,” and so reluctantly Soulsby settled for ‘only” a £11,000 increase — topping his already generous salary up to £67,000.

Soulsby’s wage of course compares favourably to the thousands of garment industry workers in our city who earn less than £3 per hour (February 18, Mercury) — a serious injustice which Soulsby is still failing to address.

Photo taken by Ambrose Musiyiwa
Photo taken by Ambrose Musiyiwa

Soulsby’s commitment to implementing Tory cuts stands quite at odds with the activities undertake by the national chairman of TUSC, Dave Nellist, who will be speaking in Leicester on Monday 5th October about the future of the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn (7pm, at the Secular Hall on Humberstone Gate). During his time as a Labour MP (1983 to 1992) Nellist was best known for his standing as a “workers’ MP on a worker’s wage,” taking only the wage of a skilled factory worker: would Soulsby do the same?

This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 28th September.

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