Southwark Council is currently undertaking a review of its civic functions and the role of the Mayor.
As many of you will already know, the Southwark mayoralty is mainly a civic, ceremonial, and representational role, unlike the situation in other London boroughs such as Lewisham and Hackney where a Mayor is directly elected and exercises executive powers.
The review is overseen by a panel made up of The Mayor (Chair), The Deputy Mayor, The Leader, and The Deputy Leader. To help inform their decision-making we're asking residents of the borough to complete a short survey, aimed at gauging the level of knowledge and awareness of the role of the mayor and seeking your ideas as to how the office might be developed.
With this in mind, we'd very much like to gather the views of the SE1 community. This link will take you to the survey, where there's just 8 questions:
This additional information might help to inform your opinions, which we welcome by completing the online survey or by posting your comments here.
This is how the figure of £230,000 for this year breaks down in approximate figures (bearing in mind that any cumulative savings will make up for any overspend elsewhere, while ensuring that the overall amount budgeted for is not exceeded. We also need to bear in mind that we will have to apply reductions of between 5 and 15% in line with savings across the council in the next financial and municipal years):
Staffing (2.7 posts), administration, and on costs: 78,500
Transport (incorporating security, driver, and vehicle provision): 67,000
International links (Southwark is twinned with towns in Germany and France): 3,000
Equipment hire: 1,200
Publicity & marketing: 5,200
Mayor's allowance: 20,000
Petty cash: 2,000
Civic ceremonials: 35,000
Security in the context of transport costings refers to the secure transport of the mayoral chain of office and other insignia. These items are of very significant historical and financial value.
Civic ceremonials are core activities in the life of any borough with a civic mayor. They include such borough-wide events as Remembrance Sunday, Holocaust Memorial Day, Civic and Honorary Awards, The Mayor's Charity Ball, and Armed Forces Day.
The logistics around organising these events are quite complex and therefore costly. For example, we had what was probably the biggest ever Southwark civic and honorary awards ceremony last May when almost 50 people (with their friends and families) were honoured. This year's recipients included Sir Michael Caine, Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC, the borough's three MPs, and a host of other residents who have also made very significant contributions to life in Southwark. Our Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at the Imperial War Museum is another example and is one of the largest in London each year. Plans are at an advanced stage for the 2013 ceremony where the keynote speaker will be Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE (Senior Rabbi at the West London Synagogue). Others are the Southwark Peace Breakfast at which Terry Waite, the former Beirut hostage, was our most recent keynote speaker, and The F Word exhibition and conversation on November 8 about 'alternatives to revenge and responses to wrong-doing':
All of these civic events were either initiated and/or organised by the civic office, and they are but a few examples of the many wide-reaching events which the mayor's office in Southwark initiates or manages each year, as well as co-ordinating the Mayor or Deputy Mayor's attendance, by invitation, at events across the borough and beyond. The mayor plays an important civic ceremonial role by representing Southwark at London-wide events including The Lord Mayor's Parade on New Year's Day and the many other annual gatherings of civic heads from across the capital (including a large amount this year associated with the Diamond Jubilee as well as the Olympics and Paralympics).
As an indication of how many engagements the Mayor of Southwark fulfills each year, Councillor Lorraine Lauder MBE completed over 900 during her term of office from May 2011 to May 2012, and the current Mayor is on target to complete similar during this municipal year.
The vast majority of engagements completed by the Mayor each year are at the instigation of people in the borough who invite the Mayor to attend and speak as First Citizen, and the rest are important civic events organised by the mayor's office and described in some detail above.
I hope this additional information helps to inform your responses to the online survey. Please also feel free to contribute your thoughts here. These will also be gathered and documented in the same way that we have for other online consultations of this kind - what I tend to think of as 'vox populi' or grassroots community engagement.
(Although with the increasing popularity of internet-based social interaction I may need to think of re-phrasing that as webbed community engagement)
These are some recent examples of the 'finished product' that went to all councillors ahead of council assembly debates, and I propose to write up views expressed for the civic review in a similar verbatim fashion:
Michael, thanks very much for this. It's such a welcome change to have authorities proactively come forward and explain themselves / ask for views on particular issues. My flippant comment above referred to posters here who have deep-seated concerns about the transport element of the Mayoral budget (I dont particularly but in an era when basic services are being cut I'm afraid my answers to your survey had to be that less frontline services such as this had to be cut first), this is their (and everyone else's) opportunity to have their say!
Civic ceremonial costs typically relate to the hire of venues, catering arrangements, professional fees (for photographers, guest speakers, audio visual installations, exhibition hire etc), payments to any external bodies or agencies we work with on a particular event (mostly in the charity or voluntary sector).
Few examples: payment of £500 for hire of The Amigo Hall for Holocaust Memorial Day (for comparison, commercial venues will often cost two or three times rates of this kind and we almost always use community venues/locations where we can support local projects in the course of fulfilling our civic ceremonial duties); payment of £300 for guest speaker at the Southwark Peace Breakfast to cover reasonable expenses; payment of £350 to The Forgiveness Project for hire of its F Word exhibition.
Catering in my experience is modest and not at all excessive. It's also likely to become more modest as time goes by.
Any saving on civic ceremonial costs over the course of the year will help to offset any overspend elsewhere, remembering that we cannot exceed the overall amount allocated to the office of just under £230,000.
That allocation is likely to reduce by 5 to 15% in the next municipal year, in line with savings across the council, which would mean the civic ceremonial budget dropping accordingly.
The mayor's personal allowance is to cover any essential legitimate costs he/she incurs in the performance of their duties. This can cover expenditure such as personal clothing and hospitality. As an example of the latter (lest anyone think we are talking about elaborate affairs), the budget for international partnerships such as those with our twin towns in France and Germany is not sufficient to allow the mayor to properly host the visits we receive each year from our civic counterparts in Clichy and Langenhagen, or the many other visitors the mayor receives each week at the civic office (including the captains of all naval and merchant ships that dock along the Southwark stretch of the Thames who pay courtesy calls, and the many representatives of community groups in Southwark who visit on an almost daily basis). Simple catering provision for these meetings (tea, coffee, sandwiches, biscuits) is also paid for from the mayor's personal allowance.
It would also be reasonable to think of it as a form of reimbursement for the time the office holder gives to the work. In most cases the mayor will not have any other source of income for the duration of their term in office, and the work is very much a full-time job. This does not mean, however, that the £20,000 amounts to a salary.
In many ways, and this is largely a personal view, the financial side of the civic review is the easier part of the exercise. We all know that savings must be made and we're already identifying those. But we also need to hear where you think they should be made.
This is very much a joint exercise, a shared responsibility, and we're undertaking it with the overarching principle in mind of spending council money as we would our own.
The greater challenge, to my mind, is developing the role of the civic mayor in the 21st century, in line with the constitutional and other boundaries that exist and the ever present need to do more with less. The review is not about downgrading the civic office, or getting rid of it completely, but learning to work more effectively and efficiently. It's about widening the impact and reach of the mayor as First Citizen in such a way that the office continues to make its contribution to building a more cohesive, inclusive community in Southwark, while instilling a strong sense of pride in who and where we are, and where we've come from.
I've incorrectly stated that the mayor's allowance can be used for expenditure such as personal clothing. This is not the case as the Mayor is entitled to a separate allowance to cover such costs through the Members' Allowance Scheme. This sum is closer to the nature of a reimbursement or remuneration, in recognition of the fact that the office of mayor is very much a full time post.
The mayor's allowance is an officer budget i.e. one that is managed by council officers and from which the mayor does not personally benefit. It's used solely for the purpose of covering any legitimate costs associated with receiving visitors or hosting mayoral events.