A COUNCIL chief executive’s pay has rocketed 25 per cent in two years whilst its lowest paid workers have been offered two per cent, prompting calls for more scrutiny on top public sector pay.
The head of Hambleton District Council, Phillip Morton, was taken on in 2012 at £100,000 and is now earning £125,000 after management restructuring.
Previously the North Yorkshire authority had shared the chief executive role and senior management team with neighbouring Richmondshire District Council under its money-saving, shared services agreement.
But when the shared chief executive left, the two councils re-established their own management teams.
Although Mr Morton’s salary is amongst the lowest for chief executives in the North-East and North Yorkshire, the timing of the rise has been criticised, with many tax payers struggle to afford essentials with the cost of living crisis.
A Hambleton District Councillor, who this week tried to raise the issue of the £25,000 pay rise, had his attempts stifled when he tried to speak up about it in a public meeting.
Councillor Ken Billings tried to bring up the issue at the end of Tuesday’s (July 22) cabinet meeting, but was told the minutes he was referring to had already been approved earlier in the meeting - and it was against council procedure to discuss approved minutes.
The Northallerton councillor said: “If I’d been given the opportunity to speak I would have asked what the additional roles and responsibilities were in this new structure to warrant this kind of increase at a time when public sector pay is supposed to be restricted.
“When they announced there was going to be corporate management restructuring, I said I hoped this wasn’t an opportunity to give the people at the top a big pay rise."
He added: “There’s no justification for these figures. This is only a small council, it’s not a county council or a unitary council it’s a local district council and this kind of salary increase just isn’t warranted.
“I feel the council has been led on a short lead over this. They’ve just rubber-stamped it and it’s gone through.
“Public sector pay is supposed to be constrained at the moment but executive pay seems to be exempt - you would think they didn’t work for the public sector.”
But council leader Mark Robson said Hambleton is one of the few authorities not to be cutting services. He said staff had also been offered a two per cent pay rise, which was more than the one per cent the Government recommended.
He said the chief executive pay was publicised on the council website and had been approved by full council.
He said: “It’s all part of the restructuring which was approved by council. Bear in mind before the reorganisation we had five directors and now we have three. We have saved £511,000 since the restructuring.
“Phil Morton has a background in economic development. Our economic strategy will put prosperity into the heart of the community in Hambleton and he will play a significant role in that.”
Despite Government calls for public sector pay restraint, many councils in the country are handing out huge salaries to its top earners whilst cutting services. About 61 per cent of councils in the UK paid their biggest earners more than the Prime Minister, who receives £142,500.
That includes Darlington Borough Council, whose chief executive Ada Burns receives £156,720.
Hartlepool Borough Council said it had reduced its chief executive pay band from £158,000 / £168,000 to £142,000 as part of cost-saving measures.
Unison, which represents workers in the public sector, said at a time when many tax payers and council workers were struggling to pay for essentials such as food and heating, it was unacceptable for public money to be spent on such huge salaries.
Chris Jenkinson, Unison’s regional head of local government in Yorkshire said: “It is clearly wrong for the chief executive to receive such a huge pay rise on top of what is already a very high salary.
“Our members in local government have suffered a 20 per cent reduction in their incomes over the past four years caused by central government cuts and pay freezes.
“The vast majority of those members are facing a massive struggle just to pay for the basics of life – food, shelter and ever more expensive gas and electricity costs. They were forced to take strike action to support a pay rise to help them out of this poverty trap imposed by their employers.”