Some senior Wiltshire Council officers are to receive pay increases of up to £19,000 a year at a time when the government has restricted rises to just one per cent.
The surprise decision to realign pay rises of 16 per cent has been made by the Tory-controlled council’s staffing committee in the wake of 252 junior staff posts being axed in a voluntary redundancy programme.
And that has reduced the council’s payroll by 5.7 per cent.
Council leader Jane Scott explained: “The biggest risk for me is that we can’t recruit new managers. We already have key posts that we can’t recruit to.
“Why would people come to Wiltshire at the very lowest of local government pay rates, and take the highest of responsibilities in local government services?”
But Coucillor Nick Fogg, one of Marlborough’s two members of the unitary authority, told Marlborough News Online: “What a way to obliterate morale! Council employees must be gobsmacked by this.
“I’m getting weary of the argument that if people aren’t paid vast salaries they will go elsewhere. This immensely foolish cycle has to be broken somewhere – and where better to start than Wiltshire. If there is any validity in the argument, it has to apply at all levels, not just the top.
“The last set of people of which it was said was bankers. I rest my case.”
The council’s staffing committee agreed yesterday (Wednesday) to approve plans to renegotiate pay for corporate and service directors, which could see some managers receiving an extra £19,000 a year.
Under the council’s management contracts it is committed to pay staff the national median salary, and a recent pay review found those in top positions had slipped below the average.
The change comes as a new management structure is implemented that will see the number of service directors reduced.
This means the total budget for senior salaries will fall, even though individual managers will be paid more.
Burbage Tory Councillor Stuart Wheeler declared: “We are now coming out of the downturn, there are more jobs available, and we see more employment opportunities out there. If we don’t do this and get ourselves back into the competitive area we run the risk of losing some excellent officers.”
The move has attracted criticism in light of the one per cent pay freeze for council staff imposed by the coalition government.
Independent councillor Jeff Osborn protested: “This is a gross inequality, and all this will do is add to the greater loss of morale.
“Staff members in middle-ranking roles are saying this is the final straw; if you were on 30 or 40 grand a year and only getting a one per cent pay rise and you looked up and saw your immediate boss getting his salary jacked you wouldn’t be happy.”