A blazing row has erupted after a Labour MP candidate labelled South Gloucestershire Council’s leader as Toby “Two Jobs” Savage over his newly paid £13,000-a-year role as deputy metro mayor.
Conservative Cllr Savage hit back at Nicola Bowden-Jones, calling her blistering public attack on him “embarrassing” and “unnecessarily personal”.
Prospective parliamentary candidate for Kingswood and Bristol city councillor Bowden-Jones launched her broadside during South Gloucestershire full council meeting on Wednesday night (October 16).
She said his position as West of England Combined Authority (Weca) deputy mayor meant he was now working only part-time for the local authority he leads but that he continued to receive full special responsibility allowances for both roles.
Speaking on behalf of Cllr Savage after the meeting, a South Gloucestershire Conservative spokesman said: “We don’t behave here how Cllr Bowden-Jones likes to behave in Bristol.”
Earlier this month, Weca committee approved recommendations by an independent remuneration panel to award its deputy mayor a £13,000 annual allowance, equal to a fifth of that given to regional mayor Tim Bowles on the basis Cllr Savage spends one day a week on combined authority business.
Cllr Bowden-Jones told full council: “As is good practice, councillors provide the council with a declaration of interest in order to reduce potential conflicts of interest, so that appropriate measures can then be taken to mitigate against potential deceptions, which makes sense.
“But what if the very person in charge of the council is the very person we need to be scrutinising? What measures are in place for this?
“This is a very serious question and demands a very serious answer.”
She said Cllr Savage’s paid position with Weca required scrutiny.
“If someone is working for another authority, how do both authorities ensure the work is being carried out?” Cllr Bowden-Jones asked.
“If the council has democratically decided that its leader can effectively function on a part-time basis, I would expect to see this reflected in the allowances he receives.
“Secondly, his position on Weca conflicts with the council’s constitution, which according to the terms of reference for a leader of the council means that the leader’s role includes representing South Gloucestershire Council as the member appointed to the West of England Combined Authority and other strategic outside bodies.
“So please can we have some clarity as to whether Toby ‘Two Jobs’ Savage is representing South Gloucestershire Council on Weca, or representing Weca on South Gloucestershire Council?”
In response, a council Conservative group spokesman said: “This Bristol Labour councillor embarrassed herself at this South Gloucestershire meeting with her unnecessarily personal attacks.
“Not a single South Gloucestershire Labour councillor applauded her speech.
“That’s because we don’t behave here how Cllr Bowden-Jones likes to behave in Bristol.
“By virtue of being leader of the council, a role to which voters returned him after our local elections just a few months ago and confirmed by a majority vote from councillors, Cllr Savage is constitutionally already a default member of the West of England Combined Authority, by the council’s constitution.
“As deputy mayor, this very much complements his council responsibilities in ensuring the best use of resources for South Gloucestershire residents.
“The deputy mayor role can only be fulfilled by one of the leaders of the local councils.
“It could have been the Lib Dem leader of Bath & North East Somerset or the Labour mayor of Bristol, and we thoroughly doubt our local opponents would be quite so critical if either of those individuals held the position.
“Cllr Savage makes no apologies for working to improve South Gloucestershire’s communities, whether that’s through his roles on the council or Weca.
“Since Cllr Savage became leader, the council’s focus on providing value for money has meant savings being achieved while improving service performance, with the likes of recycling levels surging, and we are also making record capital investments into our schools and roads.”
If you would like to see all the latest news from in and around Bristol, you can check back on Bristol Live’s homepage .