Number of high-earners at East Anglian councils fall in latest figures

Essex County Council has seen a fall in the number of high earners. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Essex County Council has seen a fall in the number of high earners. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR - Credit: Archant

The number of senior council officials earning more than £100,000 a year in East Anglia fell significantly last year according to figures from the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

The largest local authority in the region, Essex County Council, had 35 people earning above that figure in 2018/19 – down from 53 the previous year.

In Suffolk the number of people earning more than £100,000 fell from 11 to eight – although a further four unidentified people were also paid more than £100,000 for the work they did for the council.

The figures reflect the year before the creation of East and West Suffolk councils with the mergers of smaller authorities – but show that in Suffolk there were only four district or borough employees earning more than £100,000, all chief executives.

There were two Colchester Borough Council employees earning more than £100,000 and one in Tendring – the chief executive.

Across the country, the Taxpayers’ Alliance said there were 2,667 council employees earning more than £100,000.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The coronavirus crisis means that frontline council services are more crucial than ever, but at the same time household budgets face an enormous squeeze from crushing council tax rises.

“There are plenty of talented people in local authorities who are focused on delivering more for less, but that is needed across the board. The country needs every council to cut out waste and prioritise key services without resorting to punishing tax hikes on their residents.”

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An Essex County Council spokeswoman said: “Essex County Council is one of the largest local authorities in England and the largest in the East of England. Over the past 10 years, we’ve transformed the council so that we can continue to improve and deliver the services people need, while at the same time keeping council tax in check.

“We need leadership of the highest calibre if we are going to continue to deliver in the way that we have been. This is all the more significant given the unprecedented situation the world is currently in due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“If we are to attract the best people in the country to help us deal with the pre-existing challenges faced by the public sector, as well as those that we will continue to face for some time, we need to offer an appropriate level of salary and remain competitive in a market place where we compete with the commercial sector for the best talent.

“The number of senior managers earning over £100,000 at the county council in 18/19 fell by 14 – a quarter of the previous year’s count – and all our salaries are subject to regular independent review and measured against the public and not for profit sector.

“We’ve already delivered savings of £820m and expect to deliver a further £58m in the current year thanks to our strong track record of financial management and our focus on excellent service delivery. This is against a backdrop of reducing central government funding and significant budget pressures arising most notably from additional demand for social care.”

Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said: “Suffolk County Council has worked hard over a number of years to reduce its running costs for tax payers year on year, innovating where possible and looking at how efficiencies can offer savings through the transformation of our services.

“This includes reducing the number of staff who earn the highest salary range where it is right to do so. It is worth remembering that we are a major employer in the county with some 3,988 members of staff on a full time equivalent basis who work incredibly hard to support our residents with day to day care and other support services.

“Many of our staff are currently involved in the efforts to address the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“In order to ensure we continue to attract and retain the best possible staff to support residents and deliver our highly rated range of services, we must maintain a level of senior management who are highly skilled and experienced. This does mean that we need to offer a competitive salary.

“I am confident that we have found the right balance in Suffolk to do this whilst we continue to deliver value for money to all residents.”

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