Does the Yes campaign only believe the government when it suits them?
In previous posts, we have fact-checked Bristol City Council (passed), the local Yes campaign (failed) and Greg Clark the Minister for Decentralisation and Cities (failed his own test abysmally). In this post we are going to fact-check ourselves.
When we launched our campaign on the 4th April, our campaign leader and former Lord Mayor, Alderman Bill Martin stated;
“an elected mayor will just be one more politician, a very expensive politician, getting up to the same old politics and will not have any magic wand. At a cost of over £1 million to local tax payers this is one political fat cat we could do without.”
The reference to costs of £1m appears to have upset some in the Yes camp – with one pro-Mayor supporter describing it as “a barefaced lie”
So how accurate is our claim that an Elected Mayor will cost Bristol £1m?
We are not surprised that the Yes campaign are so upset about the £1m cost as they recognise how damaging it is to their case. They have previously complained when the council stated (correctly) that a mayoral election would cost £360,000, claiming instead that the correct figure is the £173,000 estimate produced by the DCLG. But it is the same DCLG, in the same document, who provide the information that leads to the £1m costs.
Are the Yes campaign, having insisted that the DCLG in London knows best, now performing a U-turn, and saying their figures can’t be trusted?
How the £1 million totals up
If Bristol votes Yes in the referendum on May 3rd, it will commit Bristol to holding an election every four years in perpetuity. Unlike Stoke or Doncaster, who held their referenda on whether to have a Mayor under legislation introduced under Labour, Bristol will not have the option to hold a referendum to revert back to a leader and cabinet system because the Tory-led government behind the new legislation has removed this option in order to stop cities getting rid of their mayors.
Bristol City Council have estimated that the cost every four years of holding the mayoral election will be £400,000 as a standalone election or £360,000 if the election runs alongside another election. These figures are based on experience of running similar elections here in Bristol.
We have explained elsewhere, why we think this figure is accurate. The Yes campaign, on the other hand, refuse to believe this figure and instead prefer to use the figures provided by the DCLG, based on the experience of Tower Hamlets Borough Council running elections in London. This provides a figure of £608,000 for a standalone election or £173,000 if the election runs alongside another election.
We do not know why the Yes campaign think London knows better than Bristol what the costs of running elections in Bristol are, but as they apparently prefer to believe the DCLG rather than Bristol City Council, we will only use information provided by the DCLG in identifying the costs of an Elected Mayor.
Once again, we refer to the DCLG produced document known as; “Localism Bill: creating executive mayors in the 12 largest English cities – Impact assessment” – signed off by Greg Clark but, it increasingly appears, not read by him, as he too claimed the £1m figure was “nonsense”.
In this document the DCLG state that in those cities that already have an Elected Mayor, the Elected Mayor’s salary is, on average, 2.7 times the allowance paid to the leader of the council in comparable authorities.
However for the larger cities like Bristol covered by the new legislation the DCLG say “our estimate of the additional salary costs of elected mayors assumes that mayors in the specified 12 authorities would be paid roughly twice the value of the current leader’s allowance”.
In Bristol, the existing Leader of the Council is paid £51,889 per annum made up of a £11,416 allowance paid to all councillors, and a Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) of £40,473.
Using the formula provided by DCLG, an elected mayor in Bristol is likely to be paid £103,778 per annum. In addition to this DCLG say, local authorities need to take into account “National Insurance and pensions costs for which councils would become liable since mayors would be local authority employees”. Using the ONS standard uprate of 30% as used in the DCLG, this takes the Elected Mayor salary costs up to £134,911 which over the four year term of an Elected Mayor would be £539,646 less the savings made by no longer having to pay the Council Leader’s SRA, producing a figure for additional salary costs of £377, 754.
The DCLG also expects that an Elected Mayor would need to employ at least one Mayoral Assistant and estimates salary costs of £45,981 per annum for this post. This adds another £183,924 to the costs of an Elected Mayor.
The DCLG also notes that positions like that of an Elected Mayor “are likely to incur overhead costs, which are not accounted for in the table. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests overhead costs may be in the region of 80 per cent of salary costs.”
Including these costs adds another £449,342 to the bill for an Elected Mayor.
So to summarise, based on the information provided by the DCLG, the additional costs of a Directly Elected Mayor can be broken down as;
* Election costs £173k or £608k
* Additional Salary costs of Elected Mayor £378k
* Salary costs of Mayor’s Assistant £184k
* Additional Overhead costs £449k
Total: £1.1m or £1.6m (based entirely on data provided by the DCLG) = A million pound Mayor.
We look forward to the Yes campaign explaining how the DCLG have got their figures wrong – although they previously used some of the same figures from the same document to claim that Bristol City Council got their figures wrong.
They may also claim that we are only looking at the costs, and fail to take into account the extra money that an Elected Mayor will bring in. In which case, we ask the Yes Campaign to provide factual information on how a Bristol Elected Mayor will bring in this extra money.
In the meantime we remind them that if you buy a lottery ticket, you still have to pay the cost of the lottery ticket, win or, more likely, lose.