The decision to award five-figure salary rises to some of Peterborough City Council’s top earners - as they slash budgets and cut back services - has come under fire.
Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said the news would “enrage” residents in the city – a point reflected in comments after the story was broken on the PT’s website on Tuesday.
And Labour city councillor Ed Murphy branded the move as “shameful” and “outrageous”.
The move comes as part of a major restructure of the leadership of the council, agreed recently by the city’s Employment Committee.
A number of posts were made redundant- which the council says has saved more than £600,000.
But five directors have seen their job titles - and responsibilities - change , bringing pay increases of as much as £25,000 a year.
John Harrison, the new Executive Director of Resources, has also been awarded £30,000 in back pay dating back to 2011, when the committee agreed his responsibilities had increased after ruling out tasks he had taken on dating back to 2006. Mr Harrison had previously requested his role be re-evaluated in 2008.
The report into the new structure will be debated by Full Council on Wednesday - although the committee’s decision cannot be overruled.
Mr Jackson said: “This is very unfortunate, ill judged and will enrage a number of my constituents, especially as City Councillors and City Council staff have rightly exercised restraint in these difficult economic times.
“This week the City Council were complaining about funding for school places.
I have to ask why the Executive Director of Resources, who has spent a huge amount of time on the disastrous Energy Park project in the last 18 months, will be earning almost as much as the Prime Minister and twice what an MP earns?
“If senior officers don’t like the pay and conditions in Peterborough, then perhaps they should look elsewhere.”
Cllr Nick Sandford, leader of the Peterborough Liberal Democrats, said: “I am appalled by this. It sends out completely the wrong message about where the council’s priorities are, as they make cuts to a number of services, and other council employees are only getting a one per cent pay increase.”
Cllr Murphy said: “This is shameful from the authority. It is outrageous that people being paid this much money are getting this rise, when we have seen children’s centres close and other cuts.”
Cllr David Harrington, leader of the Peterborough Independents, added : “This does not fit at all well with what is going on in Peterborough. It sends the message to tax payers that you have had to deal with cuts in services, but the executives will get rewarded.
“John Harrison is responsible for spending an awful lot of money on the energy parks, a project that may never see the light of day.”
But cllr John Holdich, deputy leader of the council, defended the rises, saying work loads had increased.
He said: “We have looked at other councils, and what they are paying their staff. Others are paying their staff much higher, and if we want to keep the staff we have, we have to match that.”
Union hits out at council executive pay rise
The council’s restructure was also criticised by The Tax Payers’ Alliance.
Dia Chakravarty, policy director at the alliance, said: “The council should be congratulated on its restructuring plans, making some hugely necessary savings. It is a shame though that they felt the need to award their senior staff with such huge pay hikes at taxpayers’ expense, particularly when frontline services are being cut.”
Mark Burn, Unison officer for Peterborough, added: “We have seen a large number of council employees made redundant over the last few years, and those left have also had extra responsibilities to continue to do the work, but they have not had a pay rise like this. For Mr Harrison to claim £30,000 back pay, when the average council wage is just £25,000 is also sending the wrong message completely, especially with things like the children’s centres being closed.”
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Who is getting what at the top
Five senior directors have had their salaries increased as part of the senior management restructure at Peterborough City Council, which also saw six senior staff lose their jobs.
Executive director of resources, John Harrison’s job title was changed from Executive Director of Strategic Resources. His salary has increased from £121,192 to £141,127, as well as back pay of £31,563 - after the employment committee accepted he had taken on “additional responsibilities” dating back to April 2011.
The new Executive Director of Adult Social Care and Health and Wellbeing, Jana Burton has seen her salary increase from £110,235 to £135,345. Her previous job title was Director of Adult Social Care, and her role has been expanded to include public health and the health and well being agenda.
Wendi Ogle-Welbourn has been named as Director of Communities, with pay rising to £115,345 per year, compared to the £105,186 per year she received when she was Assistant Director Strategic Commissioning and Prevention for Children’s Services.
Simon Machen is the new Director of Growth and Regeneration, and will receive £115,345. He was receiving £90,323 as Head of Planning, Transport and Engineering Services.
Kim Sawyer has been named as the new Director of Governance, and will receive £95,000 per year. She did receive £74,314 in her previous role as Head of Legal Services.
Chief Executive Gillian Beasley’s salary will remain at £170,175 per year.
Director of Children’s Services Sue Westcott will see her salary remain at £125,000.