The Taxpayers Alliance have published their latest Town Hall Rich List. It covers the year 2008-09 and there will be anger that while the recession was biting the Town Hall Fat Cats were getting even more cream. It reveals that 1,250 town hall staff earned more than £100,000 last year, 166 earned more than £150,000 and 31 earned more than the Prime Minister. This comes as council tax bills hit a record £120 a month on a Band D home from this Thursday.
Conservatives are calling for the name, title and salary package of every senior town hall official earning over £60,000 to be published online. This information would be available in an open and standardised format, avoiding the need for groups like the Taxpayers’ Alliance to undertake time-consuming Freedom of Information Act requests to drag out the information from council officers.
In a new announcement the Conservatives have also decided that pay for any officer over £150,000 should be approved by a full Council meeting – either for a new recruit of when a pay rise for an existing member of staff thakes it above that level. This will allow councillors to veto high rises, and ensure that elected representatives can be held to account at the ballot box for decisions on ‘fat cat’ pay.
The Audit Commission has previously warned that the pay rises of senior town hall staff has not been matched by similar improvements in performance. They have also slammed the pay-offs paid to departing
Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government, Caroline Spelman said:
“Pay and perks for town hall bosses have spiralled out of control. Labour Ministers have looked the other way while taxpayers' money has poured into hugely inflated senior staff pay deals. The price for that is town hall being paid more than the Prime Minister and council tax doubling while services are cut.
“We need greater transparency and greater controls. A Conservative Government will cap the maximum pension payments to town hall bosses. New guidance will be issued to stop ‘rewards for failure’. There must be full transparency on pay and perks. Elected councillors should explicitly vote for and sign off any large salary, so there is direct responsibility. This will allow councillors to vote down unacceptable pay packages.”
Among the 31 council staff earning more than the Prime Minister (who gets £194,250 a year) are some Councils with low Council Tax (in my own Council of Hammersmith and Fulham our Chief Executive is paid a stonking £205,000, in Wandsworth the CEO is paid even more, £212,500, In Kensington and Chelsea the "Town Clerk and Chief Executive" (as the role is described keeping a commendable hint of retro poshness) is on £225,000. However all three councils are delivering excellent services are a low cost.
The Greater London Authority Chief Executive, Lee Boland, is on £205,615. When I proposed some savings at City Hall his salary would have been a easy target – but I resisted on the basis that he has been helping Boris deliver a Council Tax freeze and championing spending transparency.
These people are being paid a lot. Perhaps more than they should be, perhaps not. The important justification is that they are delivering. On balance I think in Hammersmith and Fulham if we were to scout around for a cheaper Chief Executive it would probably be a false economy. But it is quite right that there should be rigour, accountability and transparency about that decision.
What is impossible to justify is paying out such vast sums for failure. Lib Dem- run Liverpool City Council is the worst in the country. They employ two members of staff on higher salaries than the PM. Their Chief Executive Colin Hinton on £217,500 and their Marketing and Commercial Director Kris Donaldson on £197,500.