Poll: County spends £850k on staff bonuses - while cutting millions from budget

Endeavour House - Suffolk County Council's headquarters;

Endeavour House - Suffolk County Council's headquarters; - Credit: Archant

Thousands of Suffolk County Council staff are to get a bonus of £250 in addition to their 1% pay rise – which means a total pay-out of more than £850,000.

The bonus will be paid to 3,731 “single status” staff – county council officials who work for the main administration not specialists like teachers or firefighters.

It will be paid pro-rata – part time staff will earn a proportion of the £250 according to how many hours a week they work. The total cost to the council will be £852,000.

Last night, critics described the decision as “bonkers” – coming at a time when Suffolk County Council is having to save millions from its budgets.

The payment was agreed informally by cabinet members and the senior management team – it was not formally discussed at a cabinet meeting that was open to the press and public.

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The first the majority council officials knew about their bonus was when they received an e-mail from chief executive Deborah Cadman earlier this month.

In it, Ms Cadman praised the staff and thanked them for their hard work during very difficult financial times.

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She then told them about the bonus – which is partly compensation for the annual increments which saw salaries increase year-on-year for staff who had been in their current post for some time.

County council leader Mark Bee said: “Making this one-off payment very much marks the end of incremental salary increases which can cost an authority of our size significant sums of money.

“This payment is being made on a pro rata basis. As the majority of our staff are part time, they will not receive the full amount.

“In the long run, the changes we are making to staff pay will save the authority money.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “This payment is in recognition of our employees’ on going commitment to the authority during what continues to be a challenging time for local government. It is also against the background of the removal of all incremental salary increases.

“Corporate single status staff will also receive a 1% cost of living increase in their salary. This is in line with a national agreement between unions and employers.”

The leader of the opposition at Endeavour House, Labour councillor Sandy Martin, knew nothing about the bonus until we contacted him.

He said: “I am surprised that this was not on the agenda to be discussed before it was decided – especially as we are always hearing what a financial black hole we are staring into.

“Quite honestly if there is this money available I would rather have seen it use to benefit the lowest-paid staff, to introduce the living wage.

“While £250 is a good sum, it will not be that much for people on more than £25,000, but if this money was spent to lift the wages of those at the bottom it could have made a real difference – but there was no chance to discuss the decision.”

Campaign manager for the Taxpayers’ Alliance Robert Oxley said: “It’s shocking that the Council is paying out bonuses, regardless of what they want to try and call them.

“It’s bonkers that the council acknowledges the financial pressures it faces yet still deems it sensible to hand already well paid staff a bonus and a pay rise.

“The Council needs to cut out wasteful and unnecessary spending so they can ease the pressure on hard pressed residents footing the local authority’s pay bill.”

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