Council rich list shows borough chiefs raking in the big bucks despite austerity

Cllr Rob Gledhill pledged that if his party took over – they would attack the budget – a pledge that  failed spectacularly with 109 members of staff earning more than £50,000 by the start of his second year in office.

Borough’s chief executive now earns more than £200,000 a year

“Given the size of Thurrock Council these salaries look very large indeed. As a Government Minister I am physically waiving a portion of my salary in order that we implement our pledge to freeze ministerial salaries. It is important we show leadership in these matters” borough MP Jackie Doyle-Price in 2015.

“Many town hall bosses are continuing to pocket huge remuneration packages, with staggering pay-outs for those leaving their jobs” TaxPayers Alliance CEO John O’Connell.

A WATCHDOG on public spending has highlighted the salaries of senior members of Thurrock Council.

Though the report by the TaxPayers’ Alliance shows nothing new – the figures for the salaries earned by Thurrock’s senior officers are reported on the authority’s website, albeit up to two years in arrears – nevertheless it turns the spotlight on a small unitary borough where many think the top salaries are disproportionate to the job.

Lyn Carpenter

The TaxPayers’ Alliance report highlights pay from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018. It shows Thurrock’s chief executive, Lyn Carpenter received a salary of £171,501 – almost £22,000 more than the Prime Minister.

When combined with her pension of £27,612, Mrs Carpenter earned a total of £199,113. Her salary had also increased from £170,000 the previous year.

Four other high-ranking council employees also earned salaries of more than £100,000.

The top earner after the chief executive was the Corporate Director of Children’s Services who raked in £133,719, followed by the Corporate Director of Place, earning £133,500.

The Corporate Director of Adults, Housing and Health also earned £126,501 and the Director of Public Health received £109,113.

£3,900 a week for CEO

Thurrock Council was asked by the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service for more details on the salaries and if any senior staff members also received bonuses that year but the authority declined to respond.

Over the past two years council chiefs have raked in big increases. In 2018 they got a two per cent rise. And earlier this year the council approved a second successive two per cent increase for executive staff – meaning that Ms Carpenter, for example, will now be banking well over £200,000 a year – around £3,900 a week!

It remains within the power of the council to treat executive staff separately to the bulk of council employees – who also got a two per cent rise. And that significant rise in senior officer salaries reflects something of an about face for the Conservative leader of the council, Rob Gledhill.

In 2015 as the Tories campaigned to take over the authority from the incumbent Labour leadership Cllr Gledhill made a scorching attack on public sector pay – and on the high salaries of senior officers in Thurrock in particular.

Reflecting on the fact that 78 members of the council staff earned more than £50,000 a year. Cllr Rob Gledhill, said: “These staff account for nearly 10 per cent of Thurrock’s whopping annual £58 million staff bill.”

At the time the then chief executive, Graham Farrant was earning £185,000 a year – though his workload and salary were shared in part with Barking & Dagenham (where he was also acting chief executive), and he fulfilled a similar role at Brentwood Council.

109 officers earn more than £50,000

Cllr Gledhill pledged that if his party took over – they would attack the budget – a promise that has failed spectacularly with 109 members of staff earning more than £50,000 by the start of his second year in office.

In May 2015 he said: “Over the last four years Thurrock Council’s payroll bill has increased by £9.3 million, this is despite a public sector pay freeze and £6 million of redundancy packages and payoffs.

“Thurrock Conservatives have repeatedly called for a five per cent pay reduction in senior staff pay and have been fobbed off with excuses that it can’t be done because of contractual restrictions or we will lose staff to London Authorities.

“However, the opportunity to reduce senior staff costs when recruiting into a new post has been ignored and it is about time all local councils stop using each other as comparators and look to the wider business community for a true level of remuneration.

“We cannot escape that we have to pay good money for good management, and Thurrock Council does have some very good managers.

“But when we look at some of the job titles it does make you wonder why the Labour-run Council hasn’t put forward more savings from this list of staff rather than slashing service budgets like street cleaning. It just clearly shows their lack of ability to prioritise how taxpayers’ money should be spent.

“And of course this probably doesn’t include any consultants or temporary staff being paid more than £50k.”

Jackie Doyle-Price

Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price also expressed her concern over the authority’s wage bill in 2015, saying: “This highlights high salaries in Thurrock Council, but you would find higher salaries in NHS management.

“These salaries look very large indeed” – Borough MP

“It used to be the case that public servants were paid less than their equivalents in the private sector. The price of lower salaries was a better pension. For some years that has no longer been the case and public sector pay now outstrips similar jobs in the private sector.

“Given the size of Thurrock Council these salaries look very large indeed. At a national level we have had some success in reducing the pay bill. As a Government Minister I am physically waiving a portion of my salary in order that we implement our pledge to freeze ministerial salaries. It is important we show leadership in these matters.”

In the new report by the TaxPayers Alliance, titled Town Hall Rich List. It shows that 2,500 council employees across the country were paid more than £100,000.

John O’Connell, the Alliance chief executive, 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 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 raise serious questions about efficiency and priorities.”

Observers of Thurrock Council will be keeping a sharp eye out for the latest wage developments, due to be published soon. The authority says its next report on salaries of £50,000 or more will include salaries as at 1 April 2018, and be published no later than 30 April 2019.