A new report from the Taxpayers Alliance shows that there were 28,754 local authority staff in the UK paid over £50,000 in 2011-12. This comes to an estimated £1.9 billion. That's equivalent to 7.5% of the money raised in Council Tax.
When there is a focus on chief executive pay in the town halls, the apologists for municipal bureaucracy argue that the pay of an individual, even one earning over £100,000, is a trivial matter for an organisation with a budget of tens or hundreds of millions. The total pay for middle managers can not be dismissed as of no consequence.
There are two important points for celebration. Firstly, last year the total fell by 12%, or £250 million, as against 2010-11. This compares with total council spending falling by 8.7%.
Secondly, some of the total will be for managers being paid more due to shared services arrangements. Suppose you have two neighbouring councils each employing someone £45,000 a year to carry out a particular task. Then they combine the back office to save money and only need one person. They pay him £55,000 as there is more work and responsibility. That is a saving for the Council Taxpayer – although an increase in the TPA tally. However, you still would expect any council sharing services to see a significant overall fall in the numbers earning over £50,000.
So where a council is increasing the number of managers they have some explaining to do. The TPA find that 266 local authorities reduced the number of officials receiving remuneration in excess of £50,000, but 118 increased the number.
Why does Leeds City Council have more than twice as many staff earning £50,000 or more than Manchester City Council?
Why does Tower Hamlets Borough Council have 306 staff earning over £50,000 although it has a smaller population than Lewisham – with 160 staff earning over £50,000?
How come Birmingham City Council increased the amount spent on staff earning more than £50,000 a year by more than £5 million. This included an additional 73 staff receiving remuneration in excess of £50,000 in 2011-12.
Did Cheshire West and Chester really need to increase the pay bill for staff on over £50,000 by £1.16 million. It is increasing the Council Tax by a referendum-dodging 1.9%. In Reigate and Banstead there is a 2% Council Tax rise – that's for an increased pay bill of £780,000 for staff on over £50,000. The headcount has increased by eight.
In Enfield why is this pay bill rising by £880,000? Or Luton by £617,500? Or Stevenage by £495,000?
It is not surprising that many of the councils increasing the number of high paid bureaucrats are in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Those are place where Eric Pickles' writ does not run. The revolution of transparency and accountability in town halls only applies in England.
Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said:
"Taxpayers are still paying far too much for bloated bureaucracies that have been established in too many town halls over the last decade. It is incredible that some councils have even increased spending on high earning staff this year after a decade in which council tax doubled across the country and when every local authority needs to find savings and ease the burden. In those cases where it is the result of redundancy payments then we need to see the savings soon. Councillors need to insist that their local authority does more to find savings and cut back on staff costs that residents cannot afford."