Len Duvall AM: Thank you, Chairman. Mr Mayor, I was surprised to be contacted by a number of journalists yesterday and the surprise was that they had been leaked very much the answers that you have given to this Assembly, but the question they were asking was - and one that you have tended to say but not in the full extent that they were prepared to say - whether we are asking you to break the law.
Let us be very clear about this: this is not about the Government any more. The Government took its decision to exclude us from the LGPS. It has not taken a decision to exclude us from a pension scheme. In fact, the Senior Salaries Review Body has stated, we are not councillors; we are "officeholders", as you rightly point out. We must be the only group of fulltime workers that legislation sets a pension and the only person stopping us having that pension is you. You have said the reason why.
Do you feel aggrieved on the leaking of your answer on such an important individual issue for us - but not really a major policy issue - of why you would take steps or why others on your behalf would take steps to try to mislead journalists on the issue?
The £2.1 million, Mr Mayor, is not the true figure because you have said - and you have said in correspondence to me and to others - that you are not going to take that pension. You do not feel comfortable with it; you would not take a pension. There are people around this table and there will be some who will not take that pension. The figures that you quoted to the press were at the higher end and were misleading in terms of this debate.
Let us just put that aside: if the key issue is about public perception, it is clear that the proposals that I presented to you were a cut. They have less provision in terms of our terms and conditions as part of being Assembly Members - and you - and that is a cut. The only thing that drives up the cost is your wages. If you choose to exclude yourself from that, it brings it down considerably and may add to a different public provision. We are not talking about gold-plated pensions. In fact, the Salary Reviews Body, when it last looked at our pensions, said that they were very modest. No one in this Assembly is asking to raise them. No one is asking you to pay a penny more than what is already in the existing budget and left by the previous Mayor.
You are wrong, Mr Mayor, and the officers advising you about that conversation. I was very clear - and a number of people were in the same room - about what the Mayor’s position was because, if that was the case, you would think he would have stopped the work and he would have taken the budget provision away. What he said was, "This is a matter for the Assembly and the new Mayor". You have taken your position.
I can only take the view that it is about the public perception. That is important. If that is what it is really about, then let us talk about that, but that does really beg the question about public perception because there are going to be a number of important decisions over the next four years where public perception is going to be important about what you do and what politicians do in this Assembly. In that public perception about people taking public money and about how you view us, as you equate us with councillors who work very hard on those issues, when you came to take your salary of £143,911, did you give any consideration to say, "I might take a cut on that and do it at my former MP salary because I delivered up to those standards"? Public perception - and you want to garner that public perception in the right way - may have thought that this was something worthy and important to you as in terms of what you are imposing on the 25 Assembly Members, which is a real cut in their terms and conditions.