Part of mayor's salary will go into trust fund
BRISTOL mayor George Ferguson will use part of his salary to set up a trust fund to help people who have been worst hit by the council's budget cuts.
Councillors last night agreed that Mr Ferguson should be paid the same as an MP – £65,738 a year.
He deliberately left the council chamber so he did not hear the debate but immediately afterwards revealed his plans for setting up the fund by donating £1,000 a month.
Mr Ferguson said: "It will concentrate on mitigating some of the worst effects of the cuts to people in greatest need in all parts of the city.
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"I hope it will be the first of many contributions from those in the city who feel they can afford to pay more than they have to in council tax."
Mr Ferguson said that having the same salary as an MP was fair.
But he added: "What matters most is that this is not about me – it's about the office of the elected mayor and what is given to that office.
"Bristol is a major European city and the role of mayor is an extremely responsible one and means a lot of hard work.
"I would hate to feel that anyone who wanted to take on the responsibility after me was precluded from doing so because the salary was not high enough."
Mr Ferguson has already opened an account with the Credit Union in Stokes Croft so that he can receive his salary in Bristol Pounds, the new currency to support independent traders and shops in the city.
The "Mayor's Fund for Bristol" will be launched during the next financial year, which starts in April.
Mr Ferguson has revealed that his budget for next year will see £35 million cuts.
He has promised to protect frontline services as far as possible but has admitted that there will be some impact.
During the debate, the leaders of the political parties spoke in favour of the mayor's salary being the same as an MP's.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Kent said: "We have had a chance to see the role of the mayor in operation and I think everyone agrees that it is more than a full-time role.
"As mayor of a major city, it is as least as challenging as being an MP."
Tory leader Peter Abraham, who moved the motion, said: "This salary reflects the importance of the post."
An independent panel recommended the salary after looking at mayor's salaries in other parts of the country. They found they range from £53,151 to £81,029, although two-thirds of them receive between £60,000 and £69,000.
The council leader, a post which no longer exists now that a mayor has been elected, received about £52,000 a year.
The panel said: "To remunerate the elected mayor at the same level as the current leader is not a viable option as it would mean the elected mayor of Bristol would be the lowest paid elected mayor in England and does not meet the 'fair fit' test.
"The elected mayor holds office independently of the council and has greater powers vis-a-vis the council, in that they only need the support of one-third of the councillors to get budgets and policies approved."
Mr Ferguson's cabinet members will get £21,000 on top of their basic allowance of £11,416, giving them a total of nearly £33,000 a year.
Councillors voted 37 in favour, none against and 27 abstentions.