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Sunday, September 17, 2023

Cost of living crisis? Not for councils who splash six-figure salaries on 2,759 bosses

NewsCost of living crisis? Not for councils who splash six-figure salaries on 2,759 bosses

Is your council well run? Does it deliver high quality services, at good value for money?

That’s a question millions of households have been asking themselves, as council tax bills have been dropping through letterboxes. The vast majority of the country have seen painful rate rises, and average Band D bills are now over £2,000 for the first time.

Our Town Hall Rich List, released today, details the top bosses at local councils who are spending that money – and crucially, how much they are paid themselves.

Our Rich List lays out how many council staff in each local authority received over £100,000 in 2021/22, as we moved out of the pandemic and into the cost of living crisis.

There were a whopping 2,759 who received this sum, and 721 who received over £150,000. This number is likely to be a significant underestimate, and we calculate it could be as high as 3,126. That’s because the number of councils failing to publish their annual accounts by April (from which the data is drawn), has gone up from 25 to 47.

I wonder how many of those same local authorities are also late to pick up the bins, or fail to pick up the phone!

These are huge pay packets that most could only dream of. They’re made up of very good salaries, plum pensions, generous expenses, bumper bonuses and golden goodbyes.

In one case, a departing council official from Guildford received over £600,000. A Newcastle council official received a bonus worth over £36,000, more than the average UK salary. And there are many more.

Now maybe these councils are well run. Maybe they keep taxes low. Or maybe they’re Northumberland council, which had the eighth highest remunerated council official in the country, and the most employees on over £100,000 in the Northeast, paid for by one of the highest council tax bills in the UK. Residents will judge for themselves whether that’s value for money.

Local authorities up and down the country have kicked off the new financial year by slapping record rate rises on residents already struggling. For those having to stretch their pensions or their salaries that extra bit to cover these rate hikes, it is vital that they can see what, and who, they are paying for.

There’s never been a more important time to hold councils to account. That’s what the Town Hall Rich List intends to do.

  • Tom Ryan is a researcher at the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

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