Councils have denounced the annual attack from the TaxPayers’ Alliance on their senior salary bills.
The right-wing campaign group, which does not publish details of its donors, issues a ‘town hall rich list’ showing salaries for senior local government staff and, where relevant, redundancy payments and other spending.
It said that in 2017-18 there were at least 2,454 council employees who received total remuneration in excess of £100,000, which was 148 more than in 2016-17. However, this was still more than a 1,000 fewer than 2014-15.
According to the group, 28 officers were paid more than £250,000 and Conservative-controlled Essex CC had the highest number receiving more than £100,000, at 55.
The group conceded: “Many senior managers at local authorities have performed well in tough financial times”.
Alliance chief executive John O’Connell 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.
“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 Unison trade union objected to Mr O’Connell’s description of the pay freeze as “much needed”.
Its head of local government Jon Richards said: “The dubiously funded TaxPayers’ Alliance seems to revel in the low pay of vital public servants.
“Pay freezes have had a devastating impact on school and council staff with many workers unable to make ends meet.”
The alliance singled out Slough BC as the highest payer, having paid its former interim chief executive Roger Parkin £595,077.
A council spokeswoman 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.”
She said Mr Parkin spent 40 years in local government and was interim chief for over a year until December 2017.
Another anomaly was that South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse DCs – which share staff and services – are both listed as having paid a chief executive £333,493.
The councils said their joint chief executive was in fact paid up to £141,820 a year, split equally between the two authorities, and the remainder “included one-off expenses incurred during staffing changes, which haven’t reoccurred”. LGC asked the councils for an explanation of the payments involved.
Graeme McDonald, managing director of Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, said: “The TaxPayers’ Alliance’s 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.”
The 2015 town hall rich list said at least 3,483 officers earned £100,000 or more.
Mr McDonald continued: “Council chief executives and senior managers are responsible for delivering a variety of highly complex services, including those which are of profound importance to the most vulnerable people in society.”
He added: “As the alliance themselves acknowledge, senior local authority managers have a strong track record of performing well in very tough financial times.”
A Local Government Association spokesperson said: “Councils are large, complex organisations with sizable budgets and responsibility for more than 1,300 different statutory duties and responsibilities that make a huge difference to people’s lives. It is important that the right people with the right skills and experience are retained to deliver this important work.
“Senior pay is always decided by democratically elected councillors in an open and transparent way.”
Answering the accusation of paying a large number of excessive salaries, an Essex spokesperson said 17 of those paid more than £100,000 exceed this sum “as they were leaving…due to organisation wide redesign and their annual remuneration includes the severance packages they were entitled to”.
The statement added: “Essex CC is one of the largest local authorities in England and if we are to attract the best people in the country to help us deliver the best outcomes for our residents, we need to offer an appropriate level of salary, that is competitive to the commercial sector.”
Folkestone & Hythe BC said an apparent £333,287 payment to former chief executive Alistair Stewart comprised only £125,000 in salary, with a ‘pension strain’ contribution of £109,000.