Council bosses hit back at ‘fat cats’ wage claims

SALARY CLAIM ... the Taxpayers' Alliance says eight senior staff at South Shields Town Hall earn more than �100,000 a year.
SALARY CLAIM ... the Taxpayers' Alliance says eight senior staff at South Shields Town Hall earn more than �100,000 a year.

COUNCIL chiefs have hit back over new Town Hall wage claims made by a pressure group.

A new report from the Taxpayers’ Alliance says South Tyneside Council has eight senior staff earning salaries, including employer pension contributions, topping £100,000.

However, the local authority today said only four officials are actually paid a six-figure sum.

According to the Taxpayers’ Alliance report, the council had 10 posts paid more than £100,000 in 2011/12, which fell to eight in the 2012/13 financial year.

The highest earner, according to its figures, is council chief executive Martin Swales, whose earnings were listed as £174,602. The report said that included a salary of £152,833 and pension contributions of £21,769.

The seven other town hall positions said to have salaries, including pension contributions, in excess of £100,000 during 2012/13 were:

* Head of Children’s and Families Social Care – £156,427 (salary £70,104, compensation for loss of office £77,315, employer pension contribution £9,008)

* Corporate Director Children and Families – £141,919 (salary £124,395, employer pension contribution £17,524)

* Corporate Director Business and Area Management – £130,059 (salary £114,031, employer pension contribution £16,028)

* Corporate Director Economic Regeneration – £128,581 (salary £112,553, employer pension contribution £16,028)

* Head of Education Learning and Skills – £104,055 (salary £91,185, employer pension contribution £12,870)

* Head of Corporate and Commercial Services – £102,264 (salary £89,603, employer pension contribution £12,661)

* Head of Strategic Development – £101,547 (salary £89,213, employer pension contribution £12,334)

However, a council spokeswoman said in reality only four employees have a salary over £100,000 and insisted it needed to pay “competitive salaries” for key staff.

A spokeswoman added: “We actually only have four officers with a salary of over £100k, not eight.

“There is a common misconception that we are a small authority but the truth is we are in the top third of councils in the country when it comes to the size of our revenue budget and the top 40 per cent of authorities when it comes to population size.

“Over the last four years, South Tyneside Council has made £100m of efficiencies without any major service closures or council tax rises, despite receiving 40 per cent less in Government funding.

“At the same time we have invested in the borough to help improve the lives of our residents and create opportunities.

“Our complaints have reduced by more than half, there are almost 7,000 more people in employment in the borough, and we are undertaking the biggest regeneration programme this area has ever seen

“South Tyneside is a high-performing council and we need to pay competitive salaries if we are to retain senior staff capable of delivering regeneration, jobs growth for the area and value-for-money services for our residents.

“Our salaries are in line with other local authorities nationally.”

The Taxpayers’ Alliance report said Newcastle Council employed 10 members of staff with wages, which included pension payments, of more than £100k, while North Tyneside had nine, Gateshead eight and Sunderland only six.

Nationally, it said 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.

Jonathan Isaby, the Alliance’s chief executive, said: “It is good news that the number of senior council staff making more than £100,000 a year is falling, although that may only be because many authorities have finished paying eye-watering redundancy bills.

“Sadly, too many local authorities are still increasing the number of highly-paid staff on their payroll.

“It’s particularly galling in places where councils are pleading poverty and demanding more and more in council tax.

“Taxpayers expect their council to be filling potholes, not pay packets.

“Many rank-and-file staff in local councils will be equally appalled – at a time when councils across the country are freezing pay, it appears the money they’re saving is being used to line the pockets of town hall tycoons.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazchris