Is Peterborough City Council’s executive pay award ultra vires or not?

Spectators Gallery sign in Peterborough Town Hall showing the way up four flights of stairs
Spectators Gallery sign in Peterborough Town Hall showing the way up four flights of stairs

Last night full council refused to discuss the executive pay award which Cllr Ed Murphy (LAB) raised as a comment on the minutes.  Ed claims the award has a dating problem and could therefore have been made ultra vires.

I was so stunned by the way this was handled by the new mayor (legal advice or comment was not even sought) that I missed the exact words of the dismissal, but it was dismissed in about four words.  Could have been “You can’t have that.”  Over so quickly.

Basically from the Spectators Gallery our council appeared not interested last night in defending itself in public against a charge it may have acted “beyond its powers”, i.e. unconstitutionally.  Not only that, but on one of the most politically contentious areas of its responsibility: executive pay being a marker for escalating levels of inequality in society and in our organisations.

Whereas various councillors sprang to support Harrington’s dismissed second motion (which by then was history), not a single councillor supported Ed Murphy’s assertion (either properly at the time or subsequently by way of solidarity or rhetorical effect – both options being wide open to them).

It seems to me that there are at least three possible explanations:


Which is it?  Or is there another?

So glad I’m not the minutes secretary!

Author: Fiona Radic

Web Weaver, Network Cultivator

4 thoughts on “Is Peterborough City Council’s executive pay award ultra vires or not?”

    1. “ultra vires” means “beyond powers” according to google translate.

      Basically when an organisation decides what it can do and how those things should be done it gives itself carefully defined powers. (Some organisations might have “standing orders” which define the boundaries of what is OK in exactly the same way.) When that very organisation then does something it didn’t decide it could do or does it in a way it didn’t authorise, it acts beyond the very powers it defined for itself.

      That could amount to maladministration, which is extremely serious. It could be illegal. It could be merely improper. It could be unenforceable in a court of law. All sorts of uselessnesses.

      But a “verdict” on what level of offence is committed needs to be arrived at in some sort of orderly fashion, such as that provided by the Ombudsman.

      I don’t know whether anybody complained to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman can’t investigate if an issue is not raised in the correct fashion.

      I don’t know whether Peterborough City Councillors understand any of the above. Nor why Ed Murphy’s very important point failed to resonate with ANY of them.

      I don’t know whether or not Peterborough City Law officers are responsible for the council’s standing orders.


  1. Hello Fiona,
    I am very sorry to read about this councils latest abuse of power, which can be added to a very long list of examples that I am personally aware of. I do not think there is any doubt that as long as the conservatives remain in un-opposed control, Peterborough will remain a ‘rotten borough’, in many peoples eyes, and as long as the ombustman contiues its unofficial policy of siding with the council, what-ever the evidenve, I see no possability of justice playing any part in decision making here.

    I would be interested to read any sugestions as to what, if anything can be done to make the people who govern us in any way accountable for their actions,




    1. Hello Alan Sorry for the delay in responding. I lost the comments to my blog when changed the engineering behind the scenes. I’m now catching up with the improvements (I’m graduating from aaargh! to ooooooh!) and found lots of new followers and your comment.

      I did read your comment at the time, but wasn’t sure how I could respond, especially to your last question. You couldn’t ask a bigger or more important question. I don’t have a complete answer for you and I doubt anybody else has. I do have lots of ideas and am doing my best to get some of these off the ground.

      btw I don’t go along with your statement “…as long as the ombudsman continues its unofficial policy of siding with the council, whatever the evidence…” I can’t agree to what you say here because I’ve not seen evidence of ombudsman bias of this sort. If you have something substantial I could refer to on this perhaps you could point me in the right direction?


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