24-fold increase in council high earners

THE number of Essex County Council staff earning more than �50,000 a year increased 24-fold in just over a decade, it has emerged.

Graham Dines

THE number of Essex County Council staff earning more than �50,000 a year increased 24-fold in just over a decade, it has emerged.

The TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA), which researched the figures, revealed the county had seen a sharp rise in “middle managers”.

In the financial year 1996-7, the county employed 37 staff on pay grades over �50,000.

By 2006-7, this had climbed to 586 and in 2007-8 the number had reached 898.

Total cost to council taxpayers of top-earning staff was �56million at an average per resident of �40.69. Only Birmingham City Council and Hampshire County Council topped Essex for spending on middle managers in the TPA's analysis of the figures.

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At the other end of the league table, Maldon District Council makes do with just four middle managers, costing residents �4.17.

TPA chief executive Matthew Elliott accused councils of “ignoring economic reality” by handing out more pay rises than taxpayers can afford.

“In the private sector thousands of people are losing their jobs, yet councils are better staffed and better paid than ever.

“Council tax bills are cripplingly high, and town halls must change their ways to bring the bill down.”

However, a spokesman for Essex County Council defended its high earners, saying that they accounted for just 2.55% of its total budget.

“Essex is a �2.22 billion operation employing 38,000 members of staff, serving 1.6 million residents every day - the same size as Northern Ireland and bigger than six EU countries.

“The TaxPayers' Alliance is very good at producing headline grabbing figures with very little acknowledgement of the real world, including having the best people to deliver crucial services such as daily care support to 30,000 elderly and infirm, running 85 libraries, maintaining 4,719 miles of road and 4823 miles of footways, handling 690,000 tonnes of waste and educating 198,496 children in 556 schools, to name but a few of the services we provide.”

Suffolk County Council, whose population is two-thirds that of its bigger neighbour, had 19 staff earning above �50,000 in 1996-7.

This increased to 137 in 2006-7 and 169 in 2007-8, costing council taxpayers �10.695m and residents �15.06 per head.

Of the district authorities in Suffolk and North Essex, the four councils where residents had to pay more than �10 per head for staff earning more than �50,000 were Uttlesford, Ipswich, St Edmundsbury, and Forest Heath.

Authority Number of staff earning Cost 2007-8 Cost per

More than �50,000 resident

1996-7 2006-7 2007-8

Essex CC 37 586 898 �56,000,000 �40.69

Braintree 7 14 14 �970,000 �6.88

Chelmsford - 23 20 �1,640,000 �9.97

Colchester 7 12 17 �1,185,000 �6.75

Maldon - 6 4 �260,000 �4.17

Tendring 6 19 19 �1,385,000 �9.47

Uttlesford 2 10 15 �1,245,000 �17.17

Suffolk CC 19 137 169 �10,695,000 �15.06