Pay rises for council chief executives in parts of the West Midlands were questioned today as they continued to grapple with multi-million pound funding cuts and axed hundreds of jobs.
Official accounts published by local authorities show more than 1,200 people were made redundant by nine councils over the past 12 months, but that this was more than 550 fewer than the year before.
Two chief executives were given pay rises over the past year – Wolverhampton City Council’s Simon Warren and Stafford Borough Council’s Ian Thompson.
The increases were condemned by opposition Tories in Wolverhampton and an opposition Labour councillor in Stafford, who said borough council bosses had refused to increase the wages of the lowest paid workers.
The cost of another five local authority bosses also went up after employer pension contributions and other expenses were taken into account.
Mr Warren’s salary, fees and allowances rose from £138,432 to £140,958. The total cost of his post was £186,268 in 2011/12 and £190,617 in 2012/13.
Mr Thompson’s salary went up from £107,307 to £110,135, taking the total cost of his job from £132,750 to £137,526.
Publicly available statements of accounts show that more than £58 million was paid to make almost 3,000 workers redundant in the West Midlands over the past two years between Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley, Wyre Forest, Staffordshire County, South Staffordshire, Stafford and Cannock Chase councils.
The accounts also revealed that the cost of most chief executives’ pay was higher overall despite almost all of them having their pay either frozen or cut.
Sandwell Council’s chief executive Jan Britton had his pay frozen at £139,000. But the total cost of his role to the public purse went from £162,630 to £165,659 including pension contributions.
He also received a £1,500 payment listed in the accounts as ‘other emoluments’, which he did not get the previous year. The council said it was to cover the membership of a professional body that he previously belonged to in his former role as executive director of urban regeneration. This membership has now ceased.
At Staffordshire County Council, the total cost of remuneration for chief executive Nick Bell went from £237,737 to £238,053. But his salary was cut from £195,466 to £194,550.
Taxable expenses and allowances increased from £7,951 to £8,208 and pension contributions rose from £34,320 to £35,295.
Other chief executives for South Staffordshire and Wyre Forest district councils also either had their pay frozen or cut, but rising employer pension contributions resulted in an increase in their overall remuneration. Cannock Chase Council boss Stephen Brown had a pay cut but pension contributions went up, meaning the cost of his post rose by £70 over the year.
One council chief executive out of nine cost exactly the same in 2012/13 as the year before. Dudley Council’s accounts show John Polychronakis had his salary frozen, as well as his pension contributions.
Paul Sheehan, Walsall Council’s chief executive, cost taxpayers less in 2012/13 than the year before. A bonus of £10,860 was not paid this year after councillors decided to scrap the performance-related reward.
Councillors today warned that deeper cuts would follow in the wake of further funding cuts imposed by central government.
In Wolverhampton up to £86m has to be cut from the city council budget over the next five years.
Councillor Wendy Thompson, opposition Tory finance spokesman, said the cuts raised questions over a £2,526 a year pay rise for chief executive Simon Warren.
She said: “Almost everywhere else pay has either been frozen or cut.”
And Stafford opposition Labour councillor Malcolm Millichap said he did not believe the increase from £107,307 to £110,135 to a year for borough council boss Ian Thompson was justified.
He said: “We asked for workers on the minimum wage to be paid the national living wage of £7.45 an hour, meaning they would earn enough to cover living costs.
“But we were told the council could not afford it. And yet it can afford to give a pay rise to someone already earning more than £100,000 a year.”
Councillor Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council, said the scrapping of bonuses for officers was necessary. He said: “We’ve been looking at all salaries from the chief executive down and when we can save the taxpayer money, we will.”
He said that he was surprised that Walsall was the only authority in the region to increase the number of job cuts but stressed that the vast majority were voluntary redundancies.
Walsall Council is facing cuts of £80 million over the next five years, putting more services and jobs at risk.
And Sandwell Council’s deputy leader, Councillor Steve Eling, said: “Following the Government’s spending review budget cuts future years look bleak, with potentially another 500 jobs at risk by 2017.”
Executive pay increased in many cases because councils were required to put more money into pension funds.
Rachel Jenkins, spokesperson for Stafford Borough Council, said: “The employer contributions went up from 17.8 per cent to 18.8 per cent, so this would account for the increase.
Further management savings will be achieved in 2013/14 as a result of the retirement of the deputy chief executive who will not be replaced.”