In the list released on April 25 2012, both Tower Hamlets and Croydon are amongst a number of councils with more than 20 employees receiving more than £100,000 in the 2010-11 financial year. Tower Hamlets ranks 7th on the list with 32 employees receiving over £100,000. Croydon is 28th on the list, with 21 senior officers receiving over £100,000.
Croydon’s highest paid senior officer was their council Chief Executive Jon Rouse, who received total remunerations of £248,362, including £43,842 in pension contributions. This was up slightly from his previous year’s pay package by 0.63%. Croydon Council spent over £2.8 million on basic salaries, pension contributions and allowances for its 21 senior officers, which is an increase of over £400,000 from 2009-2010.
Lewisham had 14 senior officers who received over £100,000, including 6 with unspecified titles. Lewisham Council’s Chief Executive Bob Quirk received the largest remuneration package in 2010-2011, earning a total of £230,864, an increase of 0.42% from the previous year. This included pension contributions of £38,477. All Lewisham Council employees earning over £100,000 received an increase in remuneration in 2010-11, with the exception of the Director of Children’s Social Care whose salary received a 13.6% reduction.
Hackney Council had 19 senior officers who earned over £100,000, 13 of which with what the Alliance described as ‘unknown’ titles. Hackney’s Chief Executive Tim Shields earned over £200,000, an increase of 0.28%, although his basic salary of £177,956 did not change from 2009-2010. In total Hackney Council spent over £2.2 million on ‘senior officer’ basic salaries, pension contributions and allowances. Hackney’s Corporate Director of Community Services received the largest increase in remunerations from the previous year with a 7.1% increase.
Tower Hamlets has one of the UK’s highest number of council employees paid over £100,000, and came joint second in London with Wandsworth Council. In 2010-2011 Tower Hamlets had 32 employees paid over £100,000, of which 25 had unknown titles, although 18 of those were redundancy payments ranging from £102,000 to £142,000. Tower Hamlets Chief Executive Kevan Collins received over £215,000 in 2010-2011, which was an increase of 5.5% from the previous year.
Councils are required to provide details on ‘senior officers’ who earn over £100,000 in remunerations. It is up to the individual council to decide who they believe to be senior officers.
The Taxpayer’s Alliance describes itself as an ‘independent grassroots campaign for lower taxes.’ In the last two years it has been able to produce a report with this level of detail and without having to make Freedom of Information Act requests as a result of new statutory rules. The TPA says it has 65,000 supporters nationwide.
The Local Government Association have responded to the report’s findings by arguing that the pattern of figures have been distorted upwards by redundancy payments. The LGA says its local authority members support transparency and efficiency:
“In creating a leaner, more efficient sector, councils have reduced significantly the number of senior staff and middle managers. This has led to a small spike in one-off redundancy payments which is mostly responsible for the increase in the number of officers receiving more than £100,000 in 2010/11.
We share the TPA’s belief in transparency and accountability, which is why senior council staff do not set their own salaries. They are set by politically proportionate committees of elected councillors. As a result they are open to a high level of scrutiny and democratic accountability.”
The UK’s largest public sector trade union, UNISON, says the TPA survey is too simplistic and does not take into account the freeze pay and conditions situation for local authority workers at the bottom of the pay scale. Heather Wakefield, UNISON’s head of local government was critical of their approach:
“It is deeply unfair for low paid council workers to be hit with a three year pay freeze whilst bosses and senior managers see their pay rise by up to 50%. Two thirds of local government workers earn less than £21,000 and are struggling as three years of frozen pay hits hard. This unjust pay policy has to end – local government workers and their families cannot take any more.
But attacking top pay will not help taxpayers, including council workers. For councils to attract the best calibre of leaders, they need to pay the going rate.”
The TPA’s Chief Executive Matthew Elliott said their report was a relevant contribution to the current election campaign:
“Taxpayers will be astonished that so many council employees are still getting such a generous deal while everyone else in the public sector is facing a pay freeze. As millions of voters across the country prepare for local council elections, it is vital that they can make an informed choice about which local authorities are delivering value for money.
The Town Hall Rich List shows that while councils insist cuts can only mean pressure on frontline services, some clearly have cash in the bank when it comes to paying their own senior staff. These council executives must ensure they have the moral authority to lead necessary spending cuts, in many cases that will mean taking a pay cuthemselves. Households have seen their Council Tax bills double over the last decade and deserve better value.”
Research and reporting by Jesse Levene and Hugo Goodridge.