Agenda item

Political Assistants


Councillor Gledhill presented the report detailing the employment of political assistants to support identified political groups. In October 2019 the General Services Committee received a report entitled ‘Review of Constitution and Process’ and as part of that report recommended that political assistants be appointed to political groups with more than six members to aid in research and support. The General Services Committee resolved to defer a decision on this to allow further discussions to take place. Local authority political assistants were local government employees who undertook research and provided administrative support for the main political groups of the council.


Councillor J Kent referred to an earlier announcement made by Councillor Gledhill on the loss of job, where 300 council staff would be losing their jobs. To bring forward a recommendation to appoint political assistants to the two largest political groups at an estimated cost of £100,000 was the wrong thing to do and at the wrong time. That this was insensitive to the extreme and would not be supporting the recommendations.


Councillor Byrne questioned how these posts could be justified and what the return or value would be and indicated his disgrace.


Councillor Massey agreed the timing was not appropriate and the discussion should be referred to a future meeting.


Councillor Worrall agreed this was not the right time with Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee reporting only last week on an unbalanced budget and agreed this was not the time to be signing off redundancy consultation notices.  


Councillor Johnson stated the timing was perfect as members understood senior officers had a lot of pressures of dealing with the budget and this would take the burden off them and allow them to concentrate on what they were good at doing.


Councillor Pothecary stated this was not the way forward and appropriate at this time. That Cabinet had agreed a £100,000 pay cut from the front line environment team which were four full time posts plus a van to which this money could have paid for. The priority should be on front line workers keeping our streets clean and all the other services the Council offered to residents.


Councillor Hebb echoed Councillor Johnson’s comments and referred to page 18, paragraph 3.3 of the agenda “the council is reforming the staff base to reflect the post pandemic situation. To help reduce the requirement for members to rely on existing officers for policy interpretation, this recommendation will provide members with a separate policy resource, outside of the current restricted officer corps, releasing them to spend more time delivering a leaner organisation”. There would be a requirement for senior leaders within the organisation to be expected to lead more operationally and the policy support would not be available within the organisation.


Councillor Jefferies referred to the comments made on the £100k cuts to front line services who had made this clear at overview and scrutiny committee that these cuts were about cost savings, cost efficiencies, using machinery, a better way of working and it was not about cutting staff to the tune of £100k.


Councillor Gledhill stated this was the right time with Thurrock evolving and moving forward and with that there needed to be the right level of support in making decisions or even challenging decisions and to do these effectively.


The Mayor called a vote on the recommendations to which were carried.




1.         That Full Council decide whether to employ political assistants to support the Conservative and Labour Groups (referred to in this report as the ‘qualifying groups’).


2.         That, if agreed, the Council, in consultation with group leaders effected, set out the contract terms and conditions for such posts in line with the statutory requirement for these posts.

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