Essex: Council defends salaries paid to top earners

Joanna Killian, chief executive of Essex County Council

Joanna Killian, chief executive of Essex County Council - Credit: Archant

ESSEX County Council has defended paying more than £100,000 to each of 36 employees last year, despite facing tough budget cuts.

The authority has the second-highest number of officers earning six-figure sums – only Camden, with 40, has more.

The council says that as one of the largest local authorities in the country, it has to award its top staff larger pay packages, which include pension contributions and other payments.

The council shared its chief executive, Joanna Killian, with Brentwood Borough Council during 2011/12.

She was paid a salary of £225,000 and earned a total of £254,880, including pension contributions and other payments – making her the seventh-highest paid council executive in the country.

The figures are revealed by the Tax Payers Alliance (TPA), which publishes its Town Hall Rich List 2013 today looking at the number of “town hall tycoons” in the UK.

An Essex County Council spokeswoman said the authority had an annual budget of more than £2billion to manage and needed “talented and engaged individuals” to lead its staff. She said: “In addition to this it is currently running one of the largest and most challenging transformation programmes in the country and has delivered savings of more than £364m over the past four years.

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“This makes it a large and complex organisation to manage, requiring talented and engaged individuals to be employed.”

Colchester Borough Council and Braintree District Council both paid four officers more than £100,000 in 2011/12, the same as the previous year.

Tendring District Council had 10 members of staff earn remuneration packages in excess of £100,000 last year, up from two in 2010/11, but the latest figure was inflated by eight members of staff being paid significant sums in compensation for loss of office, which took them past the six-figure mark.

Tendring leader Peter Halliday said the council had made “massive changes” in the past two years, starting with a reduction in the number of senior posts, that had seen the wage bill reduce significantly.

He added: “We have saved over £4m so far and are still working to find ways of doing more for less.”

The TPA report shows an overall 11% drop in the number of local authority employees across the country receiving a six-figure remuneration package.

TPA chief executive Matthew Sinclair welcomed the news that the number of highly paid officers had gone down nationally.

“It is good news that the number of senior council staff making more than £100,000 a year is finally falling, although that may only be because many authorities have finished paying eye-watering redundancy bills,” he said.

“Sadly, too many local authorities are still increasing the number of highly paid staff on their payroll, some of whom are given hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation just to move from one public sector job to another.

“Residents won’t be impressed if their council pleads poverty when it is demanding more and more council tax, only then to spend it creating more town hall tycoons.”

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