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Senior West Suffolk Councils staff due pay rise of up to 26% if proposals approved on Tuesday

PUBLISHED: 15:09 22 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:23 22 April 2018

St Edmundsbury leader John Griffiths (left) and Forest Heath leader James Waters. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILS

St Edmundsbury leader John Griffiths (left) and Forest Heath leader James Waters. Picture: WEST SUFFOLK COUNCILS

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A number of councillors have expressed concerns at the news that senior staff at West Suffolk Councils could see their salaries soar.

Ian Gallin, Joint chief executive for Forest Heath District Council and Bury St Edmunds Borough Council, could see his pay rise by up to 17% over time. Picture: GREGG BROWNIan Gallin, Joint chief executive for Forest Heath District Council and Bury St Edmunds Borough Council, could see his pay rise by up to 17% over time. Picture: GREGG BROWN

In a report by St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which is partially merged with Forest Heath District Council, it is recommended that leaders’ pay is hiked in order to attract “high calibre employees” in what is a highly competitive market.

Ian Gallin, joint chief executive, whose pay is currently capped at just over £120,000, could receive up to £142,500 once he reaches the top of the newly proposed pay band.

Since the other senior leaders’ pay is determined by the chief executive’s salary, the councils’ joint directors and assistant directors could also see a salary leap.

The two directors – who are currently paid the maximum wage of £84,238, could see up to a 26% increase in their pay over time – ranging from £97,500 to begin with, to a six-figure sum of £106,895.

The six assistant directors, currently also paid the band maximum of £73,208, could be looking at a 15% increase – with new salaries starting at £78,000 and capped at £85,000.

The report confirms that the changes can be made within budget parameters – so there should be no need for an increase in council tax or other precepts to cover the cost.

However Trevor Beckwith, independent councillor for the Moreton Hall ward, said this was “council speak” for: “We can afford what we want to afford, but we can’t afford what we don’t want to do.”

The pay rise will only go ahead if approved by the council. The alternative would be to retain existing pay bands.

St Edmundsbury councillor Trevor Beckwith called the proposals St Edmundsbury councillor Trevor Beckwith called the proposals "absolute nonsense". Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Mr Beckwith said he would be voting against the proposals, which he called “absolute nonsense”.

He said: “I think it is a bizarre situation. I can’t get my head around what it’s all about.

“There is a lot of front line workers out there who I think should be more in line for an increase.

“The reasons [given by the council] are just plucking at straws.”

Mr Beckwith added that he would be asking on Tuesday exactly where the money was coming from within the budget.

Tom Murray, who sits on Bury St Edmunds Town Council, also expressed outrage at the proposals.

In a series of Tweets, he said: “If senior leaders at West Suffolk councils do not feel the outrage at the proposed system increases they frankly should resign.

“So many folks held to small increases for them to accept 15% 17% & 27% is scandalous.

“A slap in the face for tax payers & voters.”

In a joint statement, St Edmundsbury leader John Griffiths and Forest Heath leader James Waters said: “Our main priority is making sure we deliver high quality services and ensuring the prosperity of our communities while achieving value for money.

“However, it is right to review our current situation and the future challenges we face. This means being financially prudent councils but also making changes, if necessary, to make sure we pay people the right amount of money to deliver our ambitious programme.

“These small proposed changes will benefit all staff and still mean the gap between the highest and lowest paid in the organisation remains much lower than the private and public sector average.”

In its recommendation to the councils, the East of England Local Government Association (EELGA) said salaries have “fallen behind other councils”.

The EELGA report states: “It is timely to consider any significant risks to this objective including the availability of high-calibre senior staff critical to the new authority’s success.

“When the council needs to recruit new senior staff, it needs to be in a good position to attract and retain the very best candidates available. This may mean looking closely at ‘the offer’ from the council to potential candidates.

“The senior team is fairly stable, however the salaries offered have fallen behind other councils, including those with shared staffing arrangements.

“In order to attract and retain the most appropriate staff to take forward, the council’s agenda, and the approach to pay and reward needs to reflect the responsibilities of the roles and appropriate pay rates paid to staff in similar roles in the sector.”

The report concludes: “West Suffolk should consider the current salaries of staff in the top three tiers of the councils. This should be done proactively.”

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