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Revealed: 158 West Midlands council staff paid more than £100,000

Sandwell | News | Published:

More than 150 council workers in the West Midlands were paid salaries of more than £100,000 in 2015-16, new figures have revealed.

Data released by the Taxpayers' Alliance reveals Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Staffordshire and Birmingham councils all had more than 10 top brass on that figure.

The top earner in the region was named in the report as Sharon Lea, the former strategic director of place in Birmingham, who received £414,100 in 2015-16.

A total of 158 workers were on more than £100,000 in the year, including 14 staff in Wolverhampton and Sandwell, 13 in Staffordshire and 23 in Birmingham.

The scale of the salaries has been labelled 'absolutely astonishing' and 'insane' by West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge.

Among the top earners in the region is Wolverhampton council's managing director Keith Ireland - who took home £170,100 in the financial year.

Sandwell Council chief executive Jan Britton was paid £156,942 in 2015-16, slightly down from £157,192 the previous year.

The boss of the Taxpayers' Alliance who compiled the report into council pay has said the 'sheer scale' of some of the packages 'raises serious questions'.

The group's chief executive John O'Connell said the packages offered to some executives comes amid rising council tax bills.

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And he said it is 'disappointing' that authorities across the county have reacted to tough financial situations by raising tax and reducing services – instead of reducing their top brass's pay.

Mr O'Connell said: "The average council tax bill has gone up by more than £900 over the last 20 years and spending has gone through the roof.

"Disappointingly, many local authorities are now responding to financial reality through further tax rises and reducing services rather than scaling back top pay.

"Despite many in the public sector facing a much-needed pay freeze to help bring the public finances under control, many town hall bosses are continuing to pocket huge remuneration packages, with the number of people on six-figure deals actually going up since last year.

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"There are talented people in the public sector who are trying to deliver more for less, but the sheer scale of these packages raise serious questions about efficiency and priorities."

The Alliance also said the overall number of staff reported as earning £100,000 across the country is 'likely to be an understatement'.

This is a result of 'the opacity of some accounts which makes it impossible to separate teaching staff from council staff.

A memo with the report states: "It is not always clear whether a council employee's pension has been included in their banding placement; in the majority of cases where the employee is not named, their pension has been excluded and this figure thus undervalues the number of employees whose total remuneration exceeds £100,000."

Meanwhile, Dudley Council chief exec Sarah Norman trousered £184,000 and Walsall's chief executive Paul Sheehan earned £196,627.

Wolverhampton council has recently announced the departure of strategic director for people Linda Sanders, who the report highlights as earning £237,962 in 2015-16.

Mr Etheridge slammed the scale of the salaries and said they showed 'councils feathering the nests of their chums'.

He said: "These figures are absolutely astonishing. I think it goes to show that when we're constantly being told there's no money for services, everything has to be cut back but we're all in it together that's clearly a lie.

"When people are being paid insane sums of money - two or three times what the Prime Minister is paid - that is clearly theft from the taxpayer.

"Councils are feathering the nests of their chums who aren't even delivering the kind of services people expect.

"It's no wonder taxpayers get angry - this needs to be stamped out."

Dudley Council had five employees earning more than £150,000, as did Sandwell and Wolverhampton, with three in Walsall, four in Birmingham and six in Staffordshire.

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "The average council tax bill has gone up by more than £900 over the last 20 years and spending has gone through the roof.

"Disappointingly, many local authorities are now responding to financial reality through further tax rises and reducing services rather than scaling back top pay.

"Despite many in the public sector facing a much-needed pay freeze to help bring the public finances under control, many town hall bosses are continuing to pocket huge remuneration packages, with the number of people on six-figure deals actually going up since last year.

"There are talented people in the public sector who are trying to deliver more for less, but the sheer scale of these packages raise serious questions about efficiency and priorities."

Council needs to rethink their remuneration strategies, according to Mr Etheridge - with a £100,000 cap imposed.

He said: "I personally don't think anybody who works for a council needs to be earning more than £100,000 per year - as simple as that.

"One way we could cut back on costs is to simply cull these people.

"I have no doubt that if we lost all these people and promoted from within the authorities no-one would notice a difference - other than the taxpayers."

Wolverhampton council's cabinet member Milkinder Jaspal defended the payments as necessary in the face of private sector salaries.

But he said councils must crack down on inflated salaries for interim staff - as Wolverhampton has with the removal of Ms Sanders and education boss Julien Kramer amid a restructure.

Councillor Jaspal said: "I think it is a valid point in regard to salaries - I feel strongly about not overpaying people like councils might have done in the past.

"What we're doing in Wolverhampton is cutting down on interim consultants and reducing some of the salaries.

"But councils have to compete with the private sector as well as providing value for money for residents."

Across the country, at least 2,314 council employees received total remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2015-16 - 89 more than the previous year.

A total of 539 council employees were paid more than £150,000 in 2015-16, 53 more than the previous year.

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