Hard-up town halls across Lancashire paid eye-watering six-figure salaries to 50 council officials last year – while suffering devastating cuts to their budgets.
The figure, a 25 per cent increase on the previous 12 months, included England’s highest-paid local government employee David McElhinney, who pocketed a staggering £280,000 from Lancashire County Council for heading the now defunct One Connect Limited – on top of a similar role for Liverpool City Council.
While the number of senior council staff earning more than £100,000 fell nationally, the Red Rose county showed an increase of a quarter on the 40 officers who were taking home bumper pay packets a year earlier.
The revelations come in the latest Town Hall Rich List, an annual survey by the Taxpayers’ Alliance. A spokesman said: “Sadly too many local authorities are still increasing the number of highly paid staff on their payroll.
“It’s particularly galling in places where councils are pleading poverty and demanding more and more in council tax. Taxpayers expect their council to be filling potholes, not pay packets.
“Many rank-and-file staff in local councils will be equally appalled – at a time when councils across the country are freezing pay. It appears the money they’re saving is being used to line the pockets of town hall tycoons.”
In Lancashire the biggest number of top-bracket earners came at County Hall where 13 staff were paid £100,000-plus in 2012/13, the same number as the previous year.
The county council is currently downsizing, trying to lose 2,500 jobs and make budget cuts of £300m – on top of £220m already saved over the last three years.
Close behind LCC was Blackburn with Darwen which increased its number of six-figure salaries from nine to 12. Blackpool doubled its big earners from three to six.
Of the districts which form part of the county council, Preston was out in front with five – an increase of two on the previous 12 months. Chorley was up from two to three. And West Lancashire paid two of its executives more than £100,000, the first time salaries had ever gone that high. All the other district authorities, South Ribble, Fylde, Wyre, Lancaster, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, Burnley, Hyndburn and Pendle, had one six-figure earner each - their chief executives. Only Lancaster (down from three to one) and Burnley (down from two to one) bucked the county trend.
Coun Jennifer Mein, leader of Lancashire County Council reacted by saying: “We’re making significant reductions in the numbers of senior officers at the county council as part of delivering the £300m savings programme we have to achieve by 2018. Senior officers’ pay is intended to reflect their skills and responsibilities, as with all job roles, but reductions in the number of senior posts will continue to be disproportionately high compared to other parts of the workforce as we seek to protect services.”
Preston Council insist a senior management restructure has now reduced the number of £100,000-plus salary earners to just two. A spokesperson said: “In 2012/13 the re-structure resulted in redundancy payments to three senior officers in addition to their annual salary. A further management re-structure will be carried out next year that will deliver savings of over £250,000 a year from 2016/17 onwards.”
Coun Stephen Robinson, South Ribble’s cabinet member with responsibility for finance, said: “One officer earns in excess of £100,000 and that is for a dual role which comprises the responsibilities of both the chief executive and chief financial officer, effectively saving an entire senior officer’s salary. Earlier this year we implemented a senior management restructure which made recurring savings of £160,000 a year, following a saving of £340,000 a year made during a previous senior management restructure.”
Coun Peter Wilson, deputy leader of Chorley Council, said: “We are continually looking at how we can be more efficient and we have reduced the cost of the chief executive and director team by £20,000 in the last two years.”