Nineteen employees were paid more than £100,000 by Northamptonshire County Council in a financial year where it effectively declared itself bankrupt.
The latest ‘Town Hall Rich List’ from the TaxPayers’ Alliance showed that the 19 employees were paid a whopping £2.8million between them in 2017/18.
This was the same financial year which included the departure of the then chief executive Dr Paul Blantern and culminated in the council effectively declaring itself bankrupt with a section 114 notice that banned new expenditure. It was the first notice of its kind in the UK for two decades.
The report from the TaxPayers' Alliance shows that Dr Blantern earned £277,000 for the financial year, making him the 19th highest paid council employee in the entire country. He was also the top earner in the East Midlands region.
Dr Blantern left the authority in October 2017, with his ‘Next Generation’ model of outsourcing services heavily criticised for playing its part in orchestrating the council’s financial crisis. Later that year the council’s then chief finance officer Mark McLaughlin said the authority ‘knowingly adopted unachievable savings’ in 2017-18. It was recently determined by the county council's auditors that the final deficit for 2017/18 stood at £41.5million, which was brought into the following financial year.
At the time of his resignation, it was reported at that Dr Blantern had left with a £95,000 pay off, but the latest figures from the ‘Rich List’ indicate that he was given £142,000 as ‘compensation’ in the financial year. The county council confirmed that the £142,000 figure included the £95,000 settlement, and the remainder of the sum was made up of his notice period entitlement. This was then added to his £117,000 basic salary and £18,000 pension contribution, to make a total of £277,000.
In 2017/18, the county council had the highest number of employees who were paid over £100,000 in the East Midlands region, with 19 recipients getting the generous salary.
Among them was an undisclosed individual earning £262,500. Ten other individuals did not have their identity, or job title, disclosed during the research, although current salaries for 2018/19 are openly listed for officers on the council's website.
Job titles that were revealed in the high earner table for 17/18 included the executive director for children, families and education, who took home a £138,000 salary, £3,000 in expenses and £23,000 in pension contributions for an overall total of £164,000.
And the executive director for adults, community and wellbeing took home an overall sum of £161,000, while the chief fire officer received £141,000 in total.
There was, however, a decrease in the number of employees receiving north of £100,000, falling from 23 to 19.
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “Staff salaries reflect responsibilities associated with the posts, many of which require highly-qualified, professional staff, while being mindful of the necessity of providing value for money.
“Salaries included in the research also include a number of posts with LGSS, our shared services operation, with salaries shared with Cambridgeshire and Milton Keynes councils.
“We are open about what our senior officers are paid and this information is easily available on our website.”
The council also pointed out that when comparing to other areas in the East Midlands, Northamptonshire was the only county which also didn’t contain a separate unitary authority for the town or city, such as Leicester and Nottingham.
Although the figures are for a financial period of two years ago, it will still leave a bitter taste in the mouths of some council employees, who were told this year that the council would have to wait until it could ‘afford’ to give them a pay rise.
And this week it was revealed that the new director of children’s services, Sally Hodges, was being paid £1,100 a day with an annual salary of £258,000, which is £63,457 more per year than the council’s new chief executive Theresa Grant.
John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The average council tax bill has gone up by more than £900 over the last twenty years and spending has gone through the roof.
“Disappointingly, many local authorities are now responding to financial reality through further tax rises and reducing services rather than scaling back top pay. Despite many in the public sector facing a much-needed pay freeze to help bring the public finances under control, many town hall bosses are continuing to pocket huge remuneration packages, with staggering pay-outs for those leaving their jobs.
"There are talented people in the public sector who are trying to deliver more for less, but the sheer scale of these packages raise serious questions about efficiency and priorities."