Anger at increase in council big earners

SUFFOLK'S leaders were today blasted after it was revealed tax-payers have forked out for a major increase in the number of top-earners.

Josh Warwick

SUFFOLK'S leaders were today blasted after it was revealed tax-payers have forked out for a major increase in the number of top-earners.

Since the Conservatives assumed power three years ago the number of Suffolk County Council employees earning more than £50,000 per year, excluding those working in schools, has increased by 41 per cent - from 99 to 169.

Meanwhile, the number in the £50,000 to £60,000 pay bracket has almost doubled from 58 to 108.

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Overall the cost of top-earners at the council, including schools, has increased from £15m to £25m in three years.

The revelation, highlighted by the county's Liberal Democrat group, comes in the same week that the Audit Commission published its report - Tougher at the Top? - which raised concerns that recruiting chief executives from an ever shrinking pool was driving up salaries in local government.

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News of the high-earners' increases follows two days of strike action taken by county council employees last week who are angry at below-inflation pay offers.

Suffolk Lib Dem group leader Kathy Pollard said: “We are concerned that at a time when many hard working families are feeling the pinch and lower paid staff at the council have been protesting at a pay rise of 2.45pc, the number of staff earning over £50,000 has increased dramatically.”

Deputy leader Andrew Cann added: “The Tories promised an efficiency programme which would make savings of £150m over six years. It concerns me that what they seem to have done is quite the opposite - increasing the salary bill while cutting essential services.

“Of course we need the best staff to run services in Suffolk, but that has to be balanced against the cost to the taxpayer.

“The shambles the Tories made over increasing of the top level of the salary for the chief executive's post to £220k was the icing on a very expensive cake!”

Tory leader Jeremy Pembroke defended his administration, claiming that inflation increases meant it was inevitable that more and more would cross the £50,000 threshold.

He said: “As people have yearly RPI (Retail Price Index) awards, so more go over the £50,000 mark.

“We have made £60m of savings since we took over which we have reinvested in front-line services. It is the very people whose salaries Mr Cann is critical of, whose skills and experience have helped to make those savings.

“Our track record on council tax compares extremely favourably with the Lib Dem and Labour increases.”

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