Ministers have been accused of “slapdash analysis” for counting policing and teaching staff as town hall employees.
Local government minister Bob Neill (Con) said the “bloated bureaucracy” of local government had risen from 2,728,000 to 2,907,000 in the years since Labour was elected and criticised the rise of “crazy non-jobs” such as “cheerleading development officers”.
However, the Local Government Association accused the minister of getting his figures wrong and said the town hall workforce was less than half that size, at 1.4m.
The row comes two days after communities secretary Eric Pickles apparently wrongly attributed a “staggering” 78% rise in pay to council chief executives when the figure in fact related to FTSE 250 chiefs.
Local Government Association chief executive John Ransford said: “These distorted figures fail to acknowledge that the three million employed in local government includes teachers, police forces, and all of their civilian staff.
“This slapdash analysis fails to acknowledge the huge savings that these members of staff bring to the work of their councils, ensuring that hardworking people get value for the taxes they pay.”
Mr Neill, left, quoted the Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures in a written answer to Cannock Chase MP Aidan Burley (Con) and, in a separate statement quoted in national newspapers, said: “These figures reveal the explosion in town hall jobs and bureaucracy under Labour and reinforce the need for some councils to start cutting out middle management.”
The Daily Telegraph reported that Local Government Association data for 2009 showed there were “741,702 people on council payrolls who were not in traditional ‘front-line’ jobs such as those in education, social services, recreation, libraries, planning, environmental health, culture, heritage or trading standards”.
The report continued: “Yesterday, ministers seized on Liverpool City Council’s decision to advertise three highly paid “non-jobs” on a day when it was announcing job cuts in other areas. They were for a director of regeneration and employment on a salary of “up to £140,000 “; an assistant director of adult services on £90,000 a year; and an assistant director for supporting communities, also on £90,000 a year.”
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman told LGC that Mr Neill had not criticised the Liverpool jobs as ‘non-jobs’ but had highlighted the advertising of the posts as insensitive at a time when the council announced its £91m cuts programme.
Mr Neil told the paper: “Crazy non-jobs like cheerleading development officers and press officers tasked with spinning propaganda on bin collections provide no value to the public.
“Getting rid of the bloated bureaucracy that has grown in some elements of local government will ensure local authorities can protect front-line services.”
In response, Mr Ransford, right, said: “Councils are responsible for providing 800 different services, and many of the posts being denigrated as ‘non-jobs’ reflect a lack of understanding about the complex nature of the vital work local authorities do. It is also a slap in the face for hard working staff, many of whom are facing the threat of redundancy.
“To suggest that an assistant director of adult services - responsible for overseeing the care of thousands of elderly and vulnerable people - is a ‘non-job’ absolutely beggars belief.
“Far from being a bloated bureaucracy, the local government workforce is composed of a very large group of mostly part-time female workers earning below £18,000 per year, and a diverse group of specialists and professionals throughout the rest of the structure.”
Liverpool City Council leader Joe Anderson said the adverts criticised by Mr Neill were for posts in key areas such as regeneration and adult social care.
“We need exceptional people to help us deliver these vital services,” he said. “We have halved the number of senior managers, cut top pay and reduced management costs by £4.5m. Of course, at a time when Liverpool has been hardest hit of any council by Government cuts, we are very conscious of the levels of pay. But the reality is, even if we didn’t fill these three posts, it would not dent the £91m of cuts being forced on us.”
He added: “This latest onslaught from the DCLG on local councils is a diversionary tactic and has no relation to the real problems facing local government.”