Almost 3,000 council fat cats now earn more than £100,000 a year

Almost 3,000 council fat cats now earn more than £100,000 a year: Shocking rise in pay for town hall bosses amid growing fury over soaring local tax bills

  • Over 2,800 local officials earned over £100,000 last year, report found 
  •  Councils pushed ahead with salary increases for their best-paid employees
  • The breakdown was published amid evidence of growing public discontent

Spiralling town hall pay pushed the number of local government officials who earned above £100,000 last year to more than 2,800, it was revealed yesterday.

As council tax rises have soared above inflation, councils have pushed ahead with salary increases for some of their best-paid employees, analysis showed.

The breakdown – covering the financial year 2019-20, which ended just as the coronavirus pandemic struck – was published amid evidence of growing public discontent at council tax levels.

New role: Martin Yardley now works at Warwick University 

Big bucks: Rachael Shimmin

High salary: Fran Beasley

Council fat cats now earning over £100,000  

The highest payment over the year was £573,660 to the departing deputy chief executive of Coventry City Council.

The biggest element in the package Martin Yardley received when he left the authority was an early retirement payment – handed over even though he moved on to another public sector job.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance report said the payout ‘included a loss of office payment of £395,110, the largest in the country, pension payment of £26,559, and salary of £151,991’. When he left in March last year Mr Yardley was said to have ‘played a pivotal role in the unprecedented regeneration that has taken place, and continues to take place, across the city’.

The council said: ‘Mr Yardley did not receive any redundancy payment. He received the standard pension terms offered to all employees who leave on the grounds of early retirement.’

However Mr Yardley did not retire. Instead he moved to a business development job at the Wellesbourne Campus of Warwick University, a few miles from the city. Tory opposition leaders on the Labour-controlled council claimed the payment was ‘difficult to justify’.

Other top earners included Fran Beasley, chief executive at Hillingdon London Borough Council, who received £260,513. And deputy chief executive at Hillingdon, Jean Palmer, received £237,316.

Elsewhere, Rachael Shimmin, chief executive at Buckinghamshire Council was paid £223,909.

The levy went up in England by 4.4 per cent at the beginning of this month, around five times the level of inflation.

The figures obtained by the TaxPayers’ Alliance showed that in the year to April last year the number of local government employees earning more than £100,000 a year went up by 135 – or 5 per cent – to 2,802. Over the course of two years, the number of £100,000-plus town hall staff has gone up by 351.

More than 693 were on salaries of £150,000 – roughly equivalent to the pay of the Prime Minister – an increase of 26 over the year. The best-paid individual named in the TPA’s annual Town Hall Rich List was Coventry’s former deputy chief executive, Martin Yardley, who collected £573,660.

His basic salary was £151,991 and there was a pension payment of £26,559 as well as an ‘early retirement’ payment of £395,110 as he left his post. He is now working as a business development manager for Warwick University. The council with the greatest number of highly paid officials was Essex, where 40 employees were on more than £100,000. In that area the top salary – paid to chief executive Gavin Jones – was £196,500.

Essex also paid £163,838 for ‘loss of office’ to its departing executive director for corporate development, Jason Kitcat. Mr Kitcat is now working in a senior civil service job as director for digital, data and technology at the Department for International Trade.

On average each local authority had seven employees paid more than £100,000. The return of town hall fat cat pay follows a period of austerity forced on local councils by David Cameron’s coalition, which after 2010 froze council tax and cut back Treasury grants to local government.

The restrictions were widely seen as a response to the unpopularity of high ‘stealth tax’ council tax rises and executive pay spirals in town halls during the Labour governments in the 2000s.

Since then concern about high public sector pay has focused on other areas, notably salaries paid to university managers.

However the TPA report pointed to growing public unhappiness over town hall pay as council tax rises above inflation have returned in recent years.

A poll carried out to accompany the report found that 59 per cent of people support the idea that councils should freeze or cut salaries of senior staff, while 45 per cent of the public also believe that this would have an impact in keeping council tax down.

It said only 28 per cent think their local council performs well, while 44 per cent regard local services as average.

The poll, carried out by research firm Public First among more than 2,000 people, found only the TV licence was a more unpopular tax than council tax.

Some 40 per cent of people said council tax was unfair, compared to 54 per cent for the TV licence fee, 38 per cent for inheritance tax, 34 per cent for fuel tax, 25 per cent for VAT, and 24 per cent for income tax. John O’Connell of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ‘At the onset of the coronavirus crisis, thousands of town hall officials were taking home huge sums.

‘While councils were plunged into tackling the pandemic, many staff will have more than earned their keep, but households have nevertheless struggled with enormous and unpopular council tax rises.’

Deputy: Jean Palmer 

The figures for town hall pay cover the year to April 2020, a month which saw council tax rise by 3.9 per cent in England. This followed a 5.1 per cent rise in 2018 and a 4.7 per cent rise in 2019.

This month the 4.4 per cent increase in England took the annual council tax bill for a benchmark Band D house to £1,898. The Local Government Association, the umbrella body for councils in England, said: ‘Councils are large, complex organisations… that make a huge difference to people’s lives. It is important that the right people with the right skills and experience are retained to deliver this important work.

‘Senior pay is always decided by democratically elected councillors in an open and transparent way.’

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