‘High council executive pay is justified’

9 Apr 19

Council leaders have defended council executive pay after a campaign group’s research found the average local authority in the UK had six employees on salaries above £100,000 in 2017-18. 

Analysis by the Taxpayers’ Alliance found that there were 2,454 council employees who received at least £100,000 a year, 148 more than in 2016-17.

The group analysed the annual reports of 402 local authorities for 2017-18 in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The group’s 12th ‘Town Hall Rich List’ , published today, said that a total of 608 council employees earned more than £150,000 per annum, including expenses and bonuses.

The TPA noted that in England, taxpayers will receive an average council tax rise of 4.7% and can expect to pay an extra £78 per year on a band D property this year. In Wales it will rise by 6.6% and in Scotland it is capped at 3%.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TPA, said: “Disappointingly, many local authorities are now responding to financial reality through further tax rises and reducing services rather than scaling back top pay.

“Despite many in the public sector facing a much-needed pay freeze to help bring the public finances under control, many town hall bosses are continuing to pocket huge remuneration packages, with staggering pay-outs for those leaving their jobs.”

Although, the TPA admitted that many senior managers at local authorities “have performed well in tough financial times”.

A spokesperson for the County Councils Network said its members were providing such important services that “they need to be able to attract the right people, with the right skills”.

They added: “County councils are the largest councils in the country, providing services to 26 million residents across 86% of England’s landmass.

“These authorities oversee the largest budgets in local government and are responsible for providing large, complex services, many of which are to the most vulnerable in our society, such as adult and children’s social care.”

Graeme McDonald, managing director of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, agreed. 

“Council chief executives have good quality people to deliver good quality public services, especially in these extremely challenging times for local government”, McDonald said. 

“As the TPA themselves acknowledge, senior local authority managers have a strong track record of performing well in very tough financial times,” he added.

He also highlighted that the TPA’s research revealed from 2014-15 that there were 3,483 council employees who received a salary of more than £100,000.

“The Taxpayers’ Alliance own data shows that the number of council employees who earn £100,000 or more has reduced by 30% since 2015, so any suggestion that council pay is out of control is simply not true,” he said.

A Local Government Association spokesperson said councils were “large, complex organisations” that make a “huge difference” to people’s lives.

They added: “Senior pay is always decided by democratically elected councillors in an open and transparent way.”

TPA’s analysis found that the highest paying council was Slough Borough Council, which paid its interim chief executive, Roger Parkin, £595,077 in 2017-18.

A council spokesperson said: “These figures have been presented completely out of context. These figures don’t just involve almost a full year’s salary, but also pension contributions and redundancy payments all of which, in Slough’s case, are only what is contractually and statutorily mandated.”

According to the report, the local authority with the greatest number of employees whose remuneration was in excess of £100,000 was Essex County Council with 55 employees. Essex also had the highest number of employees receiving over £150,000 at 13.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “In 2017-18, Essex County Council paid 55 employees over £100k; however, 17 of these employees only exceeded £100k as they were leaving the organisation due to organisation-wide redesign and their annual remuneration includes the severance packages they were entitled to.”

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