County council defends wage increases

THE number of staff at Suffolk County Council who are paid more than £50,000 a year rocketed by 40% in the last financial year, it has been revealed.It has also emerged the authority's chief executive, Mike More, will pocket a £21,000 pay rise this year, taking his salary to £148,335.

THE number of staff at Suffolk County Council who are paid more than £50,000 a year rocketed by 40% in the last financial year, it has been revealed.

It has also emerged the authority's chief executive, Mike More, will pocket a £21,000 pay rise this year, taking his salary to £148,335.

Last night, council tax campaigner Reg Hartles described the figures as “staggering” and called on the authority to set a better example.

The council's statement of accounts for 2004-5 shows that 89 members of staff were paid more than £50,000 in 2003-4.

That figure jumped by 36 in 2004-5, to a total of 125 staff. The biggest increase came in the £50,000-£59,999 bracket, which saw a jump from 51 staff to 72, a 41% rise.

Those paid between £60,000 and £69,999 rose from 30 to 37, a 23% increase, while staff in the £70,000-£79,999 bracket increased from five to 13.

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In the higher wage brackets, staff paid between £80,000 and £89,999 increased from one to two.

There were no staff in the pay brackets between £90,000 and £109,999, compared to two who fell into that category in 2003-4.

One member of staff was paid between £120,000 and £129,999 last year. No-one received such a wage in 2003-4.

That employee is chief executive Mr More, who was paid £127,146 in 2004-5, and will receive £148,335 for his work this year.

Mr Hartles, chairman of pressure group Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk (PACTS), said he was shocked by the news of the pay increases, introduced under the old Labour-Liberal Democrat administration.

“I'm personally staggered by these figures. They're not exactly trying to impress the public or the people they serve,” he said.

“Ignoring maybe the teachers, I can't see how it's justified - I would think they would be decreasing (wages), rather than increasing. This is not setting a good example at all.”

Mr Hartles called for council officers to receive only an annual inflation-linked pay rises.

Of the chief executive's wages, he said: “£127,000 is a very nice salary to start with - you can almost say it's in the fat cat category.

“A lot of people would be delighted with £21,000 [this year's pay rise] as a basic salary.”

But a spokesman for the county council defended the chief executive's pay rise, saying there were three reasons behind it.

He explained that Mr More had not received performance-related pay hikes for three years, while his post was also re-graded and the increase included cost of living rises.

“There were three years of his performance awards that, for administration reasons, had not been paid so he has now had to catch up on those three years. They were not back-dated,” he said.

The spokesman claimed that, if the performance awards were not taken into account, Mr More's pay rise was “broadly in line with the average for chief executives in local government across the UK.”

Another spokesman for the county council stressed that the increase was not due to more staff being employed at the authority, but was simply down to pay rises among other things.

He added: “In the first bracket (£50,000-£59,999), 11 of those are teaching staff and headteachers and 10 are Suffolk County Council staff.

“The next category up (£60,000-£69,999), there are seven more than the previous year, but it only relates to six positions.

“Four are teaching staff and headteachers and the other two are county council people. The other person is the Chief Fire Officer.

“He was employed for part of the year and that took him into that category. In the £70,000-£79,999 bracket, four are teachers - almost certainly headteachers - and four are county council staff.”

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