Heated argument over Peterborough City Council officer pay but no changes agreed - video

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Heated debate failed to see a reduction in pay to the highest earners at Peterborough City Council at a council committee meeting on Thursday, 20 November.

A recommendation will be taken to full council to say that salaries awarded to top council staff should remain as they are.

Leader of Peterborough City Council Marco Cereste, (centre) with his cabinet and advisors (l-r), Cllr Marion Todd, Cllr David Seaton, Cllr Gavin Elsey, Cllr Janet Goodwin, Cllr Matthew Dalton, Cllr John Holdich, Cllr Nigel North, Cllr Irene Walsh, Cllr Graham Casey, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald. ENGEMN00120130531090955

Leader of Peterborough City Council Marco Cereste, (centre) with his cabinet and advisors (l-r), Cllr Marion Todd, Cllr David Seaton, Cllr Gavin Elsey, Cllr Janet Goodwin, Cllr Matthew Dalton, Cllr John Holdich, Cllr Nigel North, Cllr Irene Walsh, Cllr Graham Casey, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald. ENGEMN00120130531090955

A suggestion to ask senior staff to take a 15 per cent voluntary pay cut was also ignored.

The suggestion was made by Councillor Nick Sandford, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group.

However, he faced opposition from members of the cabinet including its leader Cllr Marco Cereste who defended the pay scheme and said signficant savings had been made through a senior management restructure.

The passionate exchanges took place between councillors in the council’s Employment Committee meeting who had been asked by full council to look into senior management pay which was decided in February this year.

The decisions taken at the time led to strong opposition from MP Stewart Jackson and other councillors.

Cllr Cereste said the restructure had led to savings of £700,000 in its first year and more since.

He added that no pay rises had been given since staff who received more money had seen their jobs change and now had more responsibilities.

“We get the right people in and all we are getting is political rubbish. The services are the most important to protect the most vulnerable people in our city,” he said.

“If you want your services to work you need the right people in the right jobs to do that and you need to pay people the right amount of money.

“These people in the public sector can walk out and go to other councils for more money.

“If you start guilt treating senior staff they will walk away and they have proved they are good at what they do.”

His point was backed up by Mike Kealey, advisor to human resources at the council, who admitted some staff had been headhunted and warned that by attacking their pay they could be tempted to leave.

“It sends a message to those people we are targeting them and it eats away at their goodwill. The next time the phone rings they will say ‘I’m interested, send me the details.’

“Loyalty is a two-way thing.”

However, these arguments failed to appease Cllr Sandford who suggested that with the adult social care budget set to lose £7 million in 2015/16, it was right to ask those earning the most to sacrifice some of their pay.

“Members of the public were completely outraged at the pay. We have dug ourselves in a hole and cannot retrieve ourselves,” he said.

“Cllr Cereste has been telling us since February the financial situation of the council has deteriorated substantially.

“The senior managers should be asked to take some share of the pain residents of Peterborough are taking.

“We think we are in a period of financial austerity except for senior officers who can get a pay rise of 28-33 per cent. It’s completely unacceptable.

“We should go to senior officers and say with the very serious financial situation the council is in, we would like to ask you voluntarily take a reduction in your salary so you can be seen to be sharing some of the pain.”

In response, Cllr Cereste said: “I can’t think of anything more insiduous then asking named people to take pay cuts. The first decent job they get offered they will say ‘I’m gone’.”

Fellow cabinet members Cllr John Holdich and Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald also derided Cllr Sandford’s suggestion of a voluntary pay reduction.

Cllr Fitzgerald said: “This pay scheme was a cross-party decision and you offer no alternative. You want people who have not had a pay rise in years to have their salaries reduced.”

It was also revealed at the meeting that the council’s chief executive Gillian Beasley, who receives a salary of £170,175, had not received a pay rise in 10 years.

In a further development, Mr Kealey warned that attempting to reduce salaries could result in legal action for the council.

At the start of the meeting, the committee agreed the job description for a new assistant director for legal and democratic services.

The role, which brings together the vacant head of legal services post, deputy monitoring officer role and the former head of governance position, is expected to save the council £75,000.

Have your say:

See the meeting agenda at democracy.peterborough.gov.uk.

Follow on Twitter @ptjoellamy and use hashtag #pborocc to make your comments.

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