Revealed: The £100k-plus payments to chiefs of austerity hit Suffolk and Essex councils
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 April 2017 | UPDATED: 18:21 11 April 2017
An increase in six-figure payments to council chiefs in Suffolk and Essex has raised “serious questions about efficiency and priorities” during times of austerity.
Amid budget cuts and tax hikes the number of council employees receiving remuneration of more than £100,000 in the region is reported to have increased last year.
The figures, published today in the TaxPayers’ Alliance’s tenth Town Hall Rich List, claim the number of six-figure packages at Suffolk County Council grew by 50% from 10-15 between 2014/15 and 2015/16.
Essex County Council paid more than £100,000 to 36 employees in 2015/16, which was up on the previous year and the second highest figure of all local authorities in the country.
The largest remuneration for the Eastern region went to Anna McCreadie, Suffolk County Council’s outgoing director of adult and community services, who received £304,843 in 2015/16 including pension contributions and £157,000 in redundancy payment.
Out of all councils in Suffolk and north Essex, 76 employees received six-figure packages, including 15 who earned more than £150,000.
Faced with tightened budgets, some councils have sought to make savings through shared services initiatives, which have seen the amalgamation of senior roles. While this has reduced overall wage bills, the remuneration paid to those at the top has remained high.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils, which share services, paid remuneration of more than £150,000 to three employees last year. The councils said only the chief executive’s remuneration was more than £150,000 and the other two included exit packages.
Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils also share services and are likely to join as one “super council”. The Taxpayers’ Alliance’s figures show the number of six-figure remuneration packages paid between the two councils increased from four to seven between 2014/15 and 2015/16.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “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.”
Councils have defended their remuneration packages and disputed some figures (see below).
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “It is important that the right people with the right skills and experience are retained to deliver the work of the authority. We are transparent and publish all details for such salaries as part of our statement of accounts for people to scrutinise if they wish
An Essex County Council spokesman also stressed the importance of attracting leadership of the “highest calibre” adding that it was “one of the largest local authorities in England” delivering £597m in savings.
“All our salaries are subject to regular independent review and measured against the public and not for profit sector,” the spokesman added. They added that four of the employees featured had since left.
Suffolk County Council said 13 employees received six-figure remuneration packages in 2014/15, rather than 10, meaning the year-on-year increase was less than the 50% stated.
Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils’ figures relate to the employment costs, which include, expenses, subscriptions. National Insurance contributions and more. When only remuneration is considered the number of employees receiving £100,000-plus across the two councils is three, rather than seven.
Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury district councils said their senior roles were shared, meaning the numbers attributed to St Edmundsbury should apply to both councils.
Some councils have disputed the TaxPayers’ Alliance inclusion of pension contributions in employees’ remuneration.
Colchester Borough Council said that without such contributions only its chief executive’s salary exceeded £100,000.
The inclusion of exit packages is also said to inflate some figures.