It was a puzzle to me about why would the Mayor go to such lengths to try to hold onto a few thousand pounds of earnings from Chesterfield High School (where he worked zero hours but was paid for four hours per week). Surely, I thought, if he was short of a few bob he could just increase the drawdown from his allowance as Mayor of Liverpool. He had been awarded £79,500 but, we were told, he was only drawing down £66,000 p.a. Why couldn't he just tweak up the drawdown and leave the School in peace? Why did more than £100,000 of public money have to be wasted on a fruitless legal action against that school?
Until very recently I had thought that the only reason for not drawing down the missing few thousand quid would have been to avoid the political embarrassment of changing his mind about how much salary he thought he was entitled to take as Mayor.
I was wrong: despite declaring he was going to "reject" the £79,500 salary and only take £66,000, persistent questioning - here - has now revealed that he has been taking the full whack of £79,500 since being elected as Mayor in 2012. So it looks like Mayor Anderson's peak earnings would have been approximately £84,000 p.a. - a discrepancy of about £18,000 p.a. above his disclosed earnings of £66,000.
How did that come about? Let's pick up the thread in April 2012.
2012: Lack of transparency on past and future Mayoral earningsI was the Green candidate in 2012 and as we approached the first mayoral elections I called on all candidates to disclose their tax returns - Echo report here. At the time I thought it would actually help clarify the debate: the controversy over the Leader's increased earnings from 2010 was still current. If Joe Anderson had published his tax return - I thought - he could prove his claim that he was no better off as Leader than he had been when he worked for Sefton Borough Council.
At the time I had no way of knowing that his tax return (year end 5th April 2011) would have shown a completely different picture. In my last posting I estimated that he would have received paid leave from Chesterfield High School for 1005 hours in that financial year as well as his allowances of £52,000. So I can see now why he might not have wanted to publish his tax returns.
Joe Anderson was again making a virtue of his modest salary aspirations as soon as he was elected as mayor. In this BBC report he was quoted as follows.
"When I stood for elected mayor I made it clear that I was not seeking a pay rise ... what motivates me is making a difference to people's lives, not financial reward. It is for that reason that I have decided that the allowance I take will be no more than the salary I received two years ago when a social work manager at a school in Sefton and my allowance as opposition leader."
And the Echo report had a similar story with the headline "Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson rejects £80,000 salary recommendation for lower wage"
At the City Council meeting where the Mayor's allowance was agreed, we still had no knowledge about his extra pay coming through Chesterfield High School. That factor only emerged much later when his employment tribunal case entered the public domain. We have already seen that Council officers had been involved in his arguments with Chesterfield school and Sefton Borough Council. Officers knew about that money. So it is a mystery why they did not appear to have recognised the need to let councillors know. In effect the Council meeting was setting his pay at approximately £84,000 but we did not know that at the time.
Joe's incredible money memoryLooking back at 2012, I reproach myself for allowing him to get away with the above nonsense. For one thing, we have a politician who is taking a pay rise of £14,000 and getting public credit for not taking a pay rise..
More significantly, we all failed to check his sums. In 2012 he is saying he needs to take £66,000 to match his old earnings as Leader of the Opposition and senior social worker. But in 2010 he was saying he needed (only) £52,000 to match those same earnings. Recall the BBC report from 2010!
Even more important, though, is the recently discovered failure for him to follow through with his "rejection" of the full allowance of £79,500 in favour of a lower £66,000. He has been trousering the full amount since 2012.
But what about Joe's charitable giving?If you look again at my letter to Joe, posted here, you will see I asked him if there were any mitigating circumstances. In the absence of a reply I can only make a conjecture.
Perhaps he will argue that he has made donations to charities. It would be interesting to see if he reports his donations; interesting too if any of the donations are ones which help burnish his image and reputation.
And returning to the dispute with Chesterfield school and his legal case to hold on to his extra earnings, surely it would be hard to justify taking money from a school which is then passed on to any charity of the Mayor's choice? If the Mayor was short of a few bob, perhaps he could have eased up a bit on his charitable giving and left the School in peace.
Maybe the Mayor will enlighten us about that.
Other questions remain and I will develop those further in future posts.