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The Taxpayers Alliance Town Hall Rich List for this year is out. These days the information can be gathered via council websites rather than by Freedom of Information requests. But the TPA are continuing to compile the list as it enables comparisons to be made.

As the TPA explain:

This is the fourth time that the TPA has been able to use council accounts to produce the Town Hall Rich List. Early editions used Freedom of Information requests, but our campaigning led to new rules requiring councils to provide detailed remuneration reports
for senior officers.

This is a huge improvement, and a step forward for transparency.

Levels of disclosure are, however, still not ideal, with standards of transparency varying enormously between local authorities.

The Town Hall Rich List is the only way to compare different authorities, and the significance of the research has been recognised in Parliament, where it has been referenced by MPs on both sides of the House.

The headline result is that there were at least 2,181 council employees who received total remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2012-13, a fall of five per cent on the previous year’s 2,295.

That is welcome – although it could have been much sharper fall. Given the general reduction in budget and staffing levels it is not a surprise.

What is startling is that within the total there were 93 councils that increased the number of staff on six figure salaries. Knowsley
Council more than doubled the number of staff who received remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2012-13 to 15.

In Blackburn the number increased from nine to 12. In Blackpool from three to six. In Bristol from eight to 10.

Camden had an increase from 22 to 23. That is a small increase – but wasn’t 22 already rather high to start with?

In Glasgow it went up from 25 to 32. In Hackney from six to eight. In Hillingdon from 19 to 24. In Manchester from 10 to 13. In Oxfordshire from 10 to 12. In Southwark from nine to 11. In Staffordshire to 20 to 28. In Tower Hamlets from 16 to 18. In West Sussex from 15 to 20. In Wirral from nine to 11.

Several of these are Labour councils that are most indignant about the cuts in central Government grant. Those councils that have the number of council officers on such high pay should be challenged to explain why such awards represent value for money. It is possible that they might be. Perhaps two departments were merged. Hitherto each one had been headed by someone on £90,000. Then one of the left and the other was paid £110,000 to run two departments. But councils boosting fat cat pay had beter have a convincing explanation for their Council Taxpayers.

One of the big savings in sharing services is that it allows a reduction in the number of senior managers needed. This becomes a complication in presenting the Rich List. Supposing a bureaucrat earns £150,000 and runs a “tri-borough” department with the cost of his salary divided between Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham. Should he be counted in all three authorities as an employee on over £100,000? That would mean he would count as three people. Or should he come in below the radar as no individual authority is paying him over £100,000? The TPA allocates him to the authority formally employing him. That seems reasonable.

More progress is being made on shared services – for instance between Kingston and Richmond – but this TPA research shows us the huge spending that remains on highly paid town hall management. That is a reminder on how much more could be saved.

 

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