Hartlepool BC chief executive’s £10,000-plus pay rise has been branded “morally indefensible” by unions.
Paul Walker will see his salary increase from £157,205 to £168,000 and will receive a back-dated lump sum because officials said it should have gone up nearly two years ago.
The decision to award the rise was made by the council cabinet and not the full council on the same day that communities secretary Eric Pickles announced that all councillors should have a say on salaries over £100,000 in the future.
The move was defended by the elected mayor of Hartlepool Stuart Drummond (Ind) who said Mr Walker’s pay had not been reviewed for eight years, but attacked by Unison regional organiser Mike Hill.
Mr Hill said 86 council staff were currently at risk of compulsory redundancy, with many more having a question mark hanging over their jobs.
“The fact that a pay freeze is in place for council staff means that this kind of pay increase is morally indefensible,” he said.
Mr Drummond said Mr Walker’s pay had not been reviewed since 2003. “The council’s remuneration strategy for senior officers includes reviewing senior officer salaries every three years,” he said. “However, in the case of the chief executive, his salary had not been reviewed since 2003.
“We started this review in late 2008 and the chief executive’s new salary scale and salary level was agreed by the cabinet in November 2009.
“In terms of the wider economic picture, it should be noted that the council has reduced the number of senior manager posts from 31 to 18, saving the council over £2.5m.”
At a meeting last week, Hartlepool councillors agreed a budget which included wide-ranging cuts because it was to receive £14.2m less in government funding, a drop of 19% on the previous year.
Opposition member Ray Wells (Con) said the decision “beggars belief”. Referring to David Cameron’s decision to take a £50,000 pay cut when he became prime minister, he added: “I find it difficult to justify paying any one employee of a local authority more than the prime minister who gets £142,500. That is to take responsibility for 60m people.”
“To pay a chief executive more than that for a responsibility of only 90-odd thousand people seems imbalanced.
“I certainly welcome Eric Pickles’ suggestion that any salary in excess of £100,000 has to go to the full council.”