Surge In Six-Figure Council Salaries Condemned

The number of council “fat cats” earning salaries of more than £100,000 rose by a third last year, the Taxpayers’ Alliance has said. The pressure group said it was an “insult” that such high salaries were being paid on the back of above-inflation council tax rises.

The Local Government Association responded that compared to senior salaries in the private sector, taxpayers were getting very good value. According to data obtained by the Taxpayers Alliance group under the Freedom of Information Act, the ten highest town hall earners were paid more than the prime minister.

The highest earner in 2005-6 was Tom Scholes, chief executive of Renfrewshire council in Scotland, who received £233,029 – although this included a £113,015 redundancy payment. A close second was Kent chief executive Peter Gilroy – who banked £229,999 – followed by Wandsworth’s chief executive and director of administration Gerald Jones on £227,424. Tony Blair, in comparison, receives a salary of £186,429.

The list, based on responses from 230 councils, gives details of the 578 employees who were paid more than £100,000 in 2005-6. The previous year’s figures reveal that only 429 people fell into that category. Some 64 people received in excess of £150,000 from their town halls, and five topped £200,000. The average pay packet for this group of officials was nearly £125,000. The total wage bill for those on the list was £72m – compared to £53m for those in the same earning bracket in 2004-5.

Andrew Allum, chairman of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, described the figures as an “insult”. He said: “Thousands of pensioners are having to choose between heating their homes and paying their council tax bills. It’s a complete insult to their dignity that so much of their money goes down the drain on top salaries for council staff. Town halls need to get a grip and cut back on gold-plated salaries, or they will find that council tax quickly becomes the new poll tax.”

The average council tax rise in England and Wales is expected to be 4.2% this year – the second lowest since 1994-5, but above the consumer price index inflation rate of just 2.7%.

In 2006-7 the average increase was 4.5%, and critics claim council tax levels have nearly doubled since Labour came to power in 1997.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents more than 400 councils in England and Wales, said: “Councils are responsible for ensuring that more than £100bn of taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and provides the services local people want and need. The people who earn these salaries are responsible for multimillion-pound budgets in highly complex organisations, and to attract the best and brightest people to deliver value for money you have to pay a suitable wage.”

He added: “When senior salaries in the private sector are compared to senior salaries in the public sector, the taxpayer gets very good value for money.”