A TOWN council hopes to save money when it appoints a new town clerk by paying them almost £16,000 less than their predecessor.

Although the new clerk at Ferryhill Town Council, County Durham, will still be paid £40,000 a year, it is still considerably less than the former senior officer whose salary was £55,772.

Ferryhill’s previous executive officer, Jamie Corrigan, resigned last summer and is taking the authority to an employment tribunal next month, claiming constructive dismissal.

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The council is now advertising for a replacement whose role will include helping manage its budget of £650,000, 17 staff and deliver services such as allotments, parks and a cemetery.

It has also changed the job title from executive officer to town clerk.

Independent town councillor, David Farry, believes the search for a new clerk shows that the Labour-controlled council has overspent on the post in recent years.

“Once added up the old executive officer cost the council more than £100,000 more than he should over the last five years.

“A budget report we’ll discuss soon says council finances are under considerable pressure and it will have to find savings of three per cent, which is about what they overpaid the previous executive officer.”

Councillors used guidelines from the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) and the Society of Local Council Clerks (SLCC) to set the salary based on the size of the town, the council’s functions, number of meetings and workforce.

Mr Corrigan’s salary was set in 2005 in line with a national agreement about rates of pay for town council clerks and at that time the post was ranked a full band higher.

A spokesman for Ferryhill Town Council said: “A report was taken to council on August 12, 2005 and the new rates applied to the relevant member of staff, the same was applied at other town councils for their clerks.”

Leader Pat McCourt, who was elected in 2007, said: “I am pleased that Ferryhill Town Council recognises national agreements and abides by them.” But Coun Farry said: “It shows that we had an officer in place who was paid over and above his entitlement and the job’s responsibilities.

“He was also getting more than the clerks at nearby Spennymoor and Newton Aycliffe which both have budgets over a million pounds, more duties and more employees which is mad.”