Suffolk: It’s time for our council chiefs to take a pay cut

Suffolk is starting to feel the pain of the cutbacks in public spending.

Lollipop men and women are being axed, up to 29 community libraries face the threat of closure, there are worries about the future of council-owned care homes, and large numbers of local authority workers will lose their jobs, if they have not done so already. There will undoubtedly be more bad news in the coming weeks and months.

Most people accept that the cuts have to happen if the nation is to balance its books. There is, inevitably, a good deal of disquiet about how Suffolk County Council is addressing the challenge, through its New Strategic Direction, because such a large-scale offloading of public authority services has never happened before.

Here at the EADT, as we have said many times, we neither oppose nor support the New Strategic Direction. Our stance is that we will challenge it, we will ask probing questions on behalf of Suffolk people, we will recognise good quality decisions, and we will point out what appear to be flaws. For example, closing libraries really is cutting into the bone. If there remains an ounce of fat which is left untouched at Suffolk County Council, then putting two-thirds of our much-loved libraries on notice of closure is simply unacceptable. In Norfolk, libraries are being protected.

Which brings me to what is without doubt the biggest cause of unhappiness among many of our readers when debating the cuts by the county council - the salaries being paid to senior officials at Endeavour House.

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The �218,000 salary of chief executive Andrea Hill is a constant subject of controversy. But it goes much wider than that. According to the latest available figures, nearly 250 members of staff at the county council earn �50,000 or more a year. Their total wage bill, including pension and National Insurance contributions, adds up to about �18 million a year. These figures do not include school employees.

If all of these highly-paid staff took a ten per cent pay cut, it would save almost �2 million annually. That saving is many times the cost reduction which sacking all the school crossing patrols will achieve, and it’s not far short of the anticipated savings to be gained from the painful shake-up of the libraries service.

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These senior and well-rewarded county council officials are, in conjunction with elected councillors, making the big decisions which will shape the future of Suffolk. Every single inhabitant in the county will be affected in some way, almost certainly negatively, because these are painful, far-reaching decisions.

That’s why it’s so important that the top council officials are seen to be playing their part. So today, we call on senior officers at Suffolk County Council to make their contribution by volunteering for an immediate pay cut of ten per cent. It would save a substantial amount of money, and just as importantly would put this thorny issue to rest, so we could get on with a much more healthy debate on the many, many major problems which are facing the county.

After all, as the Prime Minister has told us: “We are all in this together.’’

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