Published On: Tue, Apr 9th, 2024

The rise in council exec pay should ‘worry us all’ as 188 now earn more than Rishi Sunak | Politics | News

The number of council officials earning more than £100,000 has surged to its second highest number on record despite services being slashed due to financial concerns.

Some 3,106 bureaucrats pocketed a six-figure salary, with 829 receiving more than £150,000 in 2022-2023.

And despite growing concerns over council finances across the country, 175 officials were paid more than £200,000.

Some 188 employees have a higher basic salary than Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the TaxPayers’ Alliance said.

It comes as most local authorities are hiking council tax by the maximum five per cent in a desperate attempt to raise cash.

This year’s set of 5% hikes is made up of a maximum 3% rise for core council tax, plus another 2% if the council has adult social care responsibilities. The changes mean the average Band D household will have an annual bill of £2,168 – a rise of £103 compared to the current financial year.

Conservative MP Paul Bristow told the Daily Express: “As councils axe lollipop ladies and close swimming pools to save cash, town hall bosses get ever increasing salaries and council tax continues to soar. This cannot be right.

“I am taking a Bill through Parliament that will make town hall salaries transparent and make councillors accountable for the pay they award officials.

“This increase in the number of the top earners should worry everyone. We are simply not getting value for money.”

Researchers from the TaxPayers’ Alliance analysed basic salaries, pension contributions and ’golden goodbye’ payments.

Westminster Council in London had the most employees receiving more than £100,000 – with 60 receiving the eye-watering sums.

And the largest total package was paid to Felicity Roe, the former Director of Culture, Community and Business Services at Hampshire County Council. Ms Roe had a basic salary of £120,133 and received compensation of £121,203 when the role was removed.

The council chief also had a pension contribution of £409,822.

John Metcalfe, of Cumbria Council, had a total remuneration package of £586,134 in 2022/23, including a basic salary of £170,492 and a pension contribution of £399,368.

Southend-On-Sea City Council, in Essex, paid out the largest basic salary –

a staggering £299,294 – “Executive Director – Interim Neighbourhoods and Environment”.

The authority confirmed the sum but said it is reducing its reliance on expensive agency staff and cutting the number of senior leaders. Council sources also told the Daily Express the salary referred to the amount they paid an agency, rather than the amount the individual themselves received.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The new financial year has seen council tax soar across the country, and taxpayers will notice that top brass pay has simultaneously surged.

“Local authorities provide crucial services and residents will want to make sure they are getting bang for their buck with their ever-increasing bills.

“Residents can use these figures to ask whether precious funds are really going towards frontline services, or whether town hall bosses can get better value for money.”

The cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee warned of a £4bn funding gap for local councils this financial year.

MPs warned demand on adult and children’s social care services was intensifying, with councils responding by hiking council tax and business rates in a bid to close the gaps.

Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities Committee Chair, Clive Betts MP, warned of an “out-of-control financial crisis in local councils”.

Some councils have effectively declared bankruptcy in recent years, with Hackney Council issuing a section 114 notice in 2000 and Northamptonshire County Council following suit in 2018.

Croydon Council issued its third section 114 notice in two years in November 2022. Thurrock in Essex made the same move in December 2022 after it got into difficulties over borrowing large sums to invest in solar energy.

Woking issued a section 114 in June 2023 due to what it said was “an extremely serious financial shortfall owing to its historic investment strategy that has resulted in unaffordable borrowing, inadequate steps to repay that borrowing and high values of irrecoverable loans”.

Yet the TaxPayers’ Alliance found that the number of officials earning more than £150,000 increased by 108 to 829.

Southend-On-Sea City Council said: “As a unitary authority responsible for delivering hundreds of services and an annual revenue budget of approximately £150 million it is right that we have an appropriate senior leadership structure in place.

“It is also important that this is regularly reviewed and during 2023/24

our corporate leadership team reduced from seven to six permanent employees and plans to recruit to three director roles were also stopped.

“Although it is sometimes important and necessary to employ senior interim staff, we also reduced our reliance on senior agency staff during 2023/24

and that will continue to be driven down across the organisation as part of our ongoing response to the financial challenges we face.”

A Westminster Council spokesperson said: “The council has unique responsibility for managing the heart of our capital city and Westminster recruits the best talent to run a complex organisation.

“Our services range from maintaining the busiest network of streets in the country and the multi-billion economy of the West End to supporting around a quarter of a million residents, including the most vulnerable in society.

“The salaries we pay reflect the skills needed to lead the authority.”

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “The data that the Taxpayers’ Alliance has provided is readily available, as these details are published by the County Council each year. It is important to note that the roles of a number of our most senior officers go beyond the delivery of services on behalf of just Hampshire County Council, with these positions also responsible for the delivery of a range of services to other local authorities and public sector partners nationally.

“The total remuneration allocated to Ms Roe, in Hampshire County Council’s Statement of Accounts 2022/23, details both the salary (including allowances) she received up until 31 December 2022, the compensation for Loss of Office she received when she left the Local Authority’s employment, following a restructure, as well as a pension contribution that was made to the Hampshire Pension Fund and was not a payment made directly to Ms Roe.

“This pension contribution recognises that when an employee is made redundant, in certain circumstances, there is an entitlement for early release of pension. Ms Roe’s post was deleted as part of the restructure.

“Employing approximately 10,000 people directly and many more indirectly, Hampshire County Council is one of the largest public sector organisations in the country, serving 1.4 million residents, spending over £2 billion per year on the delivery of a wide range of complex and essential public services. County Council rates of pay are competitive in order to recruit, retain and motivate the best people, and to deliver value for money for the taxpayer.”

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