Belfast Telegraph

More than 2,000 town hall staff on £100k and more, study reveals

More than 2,000 council employees in England and Wales are earning at least £100,000 a year, a study has found.

The TaxPayers' Alliance Town Hall Rich List identified at least 2,314 staff whose total remuneration exceeded six figures in 2015-16, up 89 on the previous year.

A total of 539 council employees also received packages worth more than £150,000 in 2015-16, up 53 on the previous year.

John O'Connell, chief executive of the group which campaigns for smaller government and lower taxes, said: " The average council tax bill has gone up by more than £900 over the last 20 years and spending has gone through the roof.

"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 the number of people on six-figure deals actually going up since last year.

"There are talented people in the public sector who are trying to deliver more for less, but the sheer scale of these packages raises serious questions about efficiency and priorities."

The annual study found Southwark Council was the local authority with the most employees receiving remuneration over £100,000, 44 staff members, an increase of 25 on the previous year.

There were 68 councils with at least 10 employees getting more than £100,000.

And it found Dave Smith, Sunderland City Council's chief executive, was the local government employee with the largest total pay package, picking up £625,570, including a pay-off of £185,470 and pension contributions of £331,414, the TaxPayers' Alliance found.

The north-east authority spent £1,676,023 on three employees, the report found.

According to the data, London was the region with the greatest number of employees earning more than £100,000, with 450. This was followed by the south-east region, with 368.

There were 102 employees earning six-figures sums in Wales, the lowest regional figure.

The group said its figure of 2,314 was "likely to be an understatement" because of inconsistencies with the way councils present their data.

Responding to the report, Councillor Claire Kober, chairwoman of the Local Government Association's Resources Board, said: "Councils are large, complex organisations with sizeable budgets and responsibility for delivering more than 700 services, including caring for the elderly and vulnerable, and protecting children.

"It is important that the right people with the right skills and experience are retained to deliver this work.

"Local government is committed to providing value for money to taxpayers and, nationally, incoming chief executives are being paid lower salaries than their predecessors and average chief executive salaries continue to decline year-on-year.

"The pay of senior council staff is set by politically proportionate committees of elected councillors and is open to a high level of scrutiny and democratic accountability as a result."

Southwark councillor Fiona Colley said: "The numbers quoted are difficult to compare with other authorities as what is included in the figures varies from one organisation to another.

"Southwark Council is one of the largest local authorities in the country, and in London. It is a complex organisation delivering hundreds of vital services, including child protection and the care of vulnerable people.

"It is important that we employ people of extremely high calibre for this kind of role."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "Whilst it's a matter for individual local authorities, ministers have been clear that they expect them to show restraint from excessive pay rises, especially when it comes to senior staff.

"We've taken steps to make sure councils are more transparent on how they set pay and can be held accountable by local residents."

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