Double bubble

12 Oct

Unmesh Desai and friends

Unmesh Desai and ‘Team Newham’ celebrate

Back in September, overshadowed by the results of the leadership election and Sadiq Khan’s selection as the party’s candidate for mayor of London, Labour also announced the successful candidates for seats on the London Assembly – the body that scrutinises the activities of the mayor.

And it was good news for Newham’s Unmesh Desai, who won a six-way, almost all-male contest for the City & East nomination (just one woman made it to the shortlist – and she came last). Fittingly, he received exactly 666 first preference votes, and then enough second and third preferences to ensure he ultimately prevailed.

Barring an electoral earthquake Desai will take his seat at City Hall next May, where he will pick up an annual salary of £55,161 – a substantial rise on his current Newham pay of £43,711.

But happily for Councillor Unmesh – as he likes to be known – that is not the end of the good news. There is the enticing prospect of double-bubble.

There is no legal or party requirement for him to resign his council seat, so he will continue to collect at least the basic £10,937 allowance every year on top of his GLA salary. Should Sir Robin decide he cannot live without his friend’s sage advice on crime and disorder he can shovel yet more cash into the Desai bank account in the form of a ‘special responsibility allowance’.

This will then justify thousands of pounds more in pension contributions under Newham’s recently established (and legally dubious) ‘executive members’ scheme. London Assembly members are barred – like local councillors – from joining the Local Government Pension Scheme, so the timing of this new scheme is a happy coincidence.

Public service can be very rewarding, can’t it?

CORRECTION: The original version of this post stated that the City & East shortlist was all-male. Someone kindly pointed out that Hackney councillor Feryal Demirci is a woman – my sincere apologies to her for the mistake.

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