A wave of outrage has been directed at Warwickshire County Council after the authority advertised a number of positions with eye-watering salaries close to those of the Prime Minister.
Two positions for the posts of Strategic Director Communities were being offered with wages of up to £143,593pa plus a relocation package last week.
Elsewhere four positions of Assistant Director of People, with salaries of between £84,038- £109,367 plus a relocation package, were also being advertised.
The highest wages being offered are just below the Prime Minister’s salary of around £150,000pa and well above the national average which currently stands at just over £28,000pa.
The job adverts come at a time when the county council is trying to make savings of around £64million by 2020.
The changes are part of what the council says is a restructure of its senior management team, but many see the wages as excessive, especially at a time of controversial cuts to services.
Among the most divisive cuts have been those to the Children’s Centre budget and the axing of chaperones from school busses earlier this year.
Defending the salaries, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “Warwickshire County Council is fully committed to making the county of Warwickshire the best it can be whilst delivering on a highly challenging agenda of savings.
“In order to do this we recognise there is a need to ensure we have the best people employed at every level of the organisation and this is no less true for our most senior officers.
“Although these salaries may seem large, they are broadly comparable with the rest of the marketplace and we are confident they will attract the candidates Warwickshire County Council needs to take it from strength to strength as we continue to meet the changing needs of our residents.
“The Council is not increasing the number of senior posts it is restructuring them to ensure we are fit for the future.
“Like all public sector organisations, we face challenges from the impact of population growth, increased service demand and changes to local government funding. As an ambitious council, we are working proactively to respond to these challenges. We have developed a new operating model that is designed to ensure we are financially sustainable, that we manage demand effectively and deliver our economic growth priorities.
“The key to delivering this new approach is having the right senior leadership team in place: a high performing team; focused on ensuring that we are efficient, responsive, modern and offer value for money.”
Commenting on the salaries, Cllr Richard Chattaway, leader of the opposition Labour Group, said: “While these seem large salaries, being offered by the Conservatives administration it is important that the Leader and her Cabinet attract the best candidates for Warwickshire. These are important jobs but it is essential that there are stringent performance targets attached to the posts and that the post holders are held to account.
“Local Government services and staff are under pressure and we will be holding the Cabinet to account in making the right appointments to ensure we get value for money.”
Giving a Liberal Democrat perspective, district Cllr Peter Moorse, said: “Looking at these salaries perhaps there’s some truth in the Conservatives’ claim that austerity has ended. Let’s hope this marks an end to the constant cuts in services from the county council.”
Although councillors appear divided over whether the salaries are reasonable, for those who have fought against cuts to services, the money being offered is a bitter pill to swallow.
Anna Pike, who has campaigned against cuts to the county council’s school bus chaperones service, said: “I think this is appalling. We are fighting to protect services from cuts and you know that as soon as they are cut they will never be reinstated, it’s just not the way the world works. To find out that they are advertising for these very high paid positions is particularly galling, it seems ridiculous.”
Vicki Behm, who fought against cuts to children’s centre services, added: “I think this is just appalling, it’s criminal really how much they are offering. I know that county councils need to make savings because they are underfunded by the government, but the way they’re going about things is terrible. I know that there are concerns with staff at Warwickshire’s remaining children’s centre that families are already beginning to fall through the cracks.”