Saturday, 9 February 2008

'Fat cat' council officers cost council taxpayers £7 million a year

THE number of ‘fat cat’ County Hall officers earning £50,000+ a year has rocketed under a decade of Liberal Democrat control by more than a staggering 1,200 per cent, according to a study by the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
In 1997, Somerset County Council employed just nine officers on salaries in excess of £50k.
By last year, the number of higher-paid staff had soared to – 111.
Those 111 high earners alone were now costing council taxpayers more than £7 million a year to keep them in their jobs.
Ten years ago, the cost was £515,000.
The highest-paid County Hall officer is chief executive Alan Jones, who, according to information leaked to West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, now earns £143,211 – more than twice an MP’s salary.
Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “The salaries of all the heads of service are tied to his. So, when he gets a rise, they all get one.”
Five years ago, Mr Jones’ salary was said to be £94,285 – reflecting a 52 per cent pay rise in just five years.
County Hall’s Lib Dem administration has met the extra wage bills by more than doubling average council tax bills from £ 485.94 10 years ago to this year’s proposed £999.90.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance study revealed that each council taxpayer in West Somerset now pays £13.64 towards the ‘fat cat’ salaries at the county council.
In addition, those in West Somerset district pay another £6.80 each for four district council officers who earn in excess of £50,000 a year.
Ten years ago, West Somerset had only one officer on such a salary scale. Now, with four, their bill adds up to £240,000 a year.
In Taunton Deane, council taxpayers are charged £8.75 each for the £940,000 it costs to pay 14 staff on £50k salaries – up from £65,000 when the chief executive was the only officer in that bracket 10 years ago.
Sedgemoor council taxpayers currently stump up £4.68 each for the £520,000 cost of eight officers earning above £50k, compared to the £55,000 it cost in 1997 to employ one officer at the top of the wage bands.
TaxPayers’ Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliott said: “With council tax doubling in the past decade, it is extremely disappointing that town halls have chosen to hire a new class of middle managers, many of whom are being paid more than MPs.
“Local authorities should study these findings carefully to see where savings can be made, instead of using their half-billion pound PR machine to obscure their finances from taxpayers.”
The ‘fat cat’ salaries survey follows closely on from another TaxPayers’ Alliance study which showed Somerset County Council was spending more than £4.2 million a year on publicity - almost a 110 per cent leap from the £2 million it spent in 1997.
The county council claimed £1.5 million of that sum went on recruitment advertising.
The Post asked the county to comment on the ‘fat cat’ salaries report – it declined.

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