Councillors reject salaries scrutiny

Saturday 30th March 2019 7:00 am
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Time almost up: County Hall in Kingston ()

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A CALL for high-paying salaries of council officers to be “more transparent” has been voted down.

The bid for more scrutiny over the amount staff are paid at Surrey County Council came after an advert for a job as a programme manager to help with moving the county hall out of Kingston was tagged with a £91,000-£98,000 salary.

Councillor Chris Botten, opposition leader, said the county should be sharing talented staff and resources with borough and district councils in a bid to keep down costs when so many residents are struggling to make ends meet.

He put forward a motion at Surrey County Council full council on March 19 for a policy on recruiting permanent positions instead of interim posts and for the county to work more with the boroughs and districts. This was approved and voted through unanimously.

A third part of the motion to provide more monitoring of the costs for senior management salaries, interim appointments and redundancies at the people, performance and development committee was rejected in the vote with only 17 voting for, compared with 52 against.

Addressing councillors in the chamber, Cllr Botten said: “There are people out there who are spending their lives fighting for special needs packages for their children. There are people out there using foodbanks and for whom the council tax increase, which has just been landing on their doorstep, was a step too far.

“The county council needs to get its house in order in employing in a cost-effective way and in a proper and appropriate fashion and one our residents can have confidence in.”

He said they should be growing talent with other councils and within the public sector, adding there were other local authorities where officers have shared posts between county and districts.

He added: “Our families out there are very clear that having gone on and on and on about Surrey’s lack of money over the past ten years it really strikes a discordant note to see salaries of this sort advertised.”

Cllr Eber Kington said there needed to be more transparency over the salaries being paid.

He said: “Monitoring the decision and spend of officers is very much our role, even when that officer with the responsibility is the chief executive.”

Council leader Tim Oliver said there was enough monitoring with the people, performance and development committee and that it was up to chief executive Joanna Killian how the budget for salaries was spent and “for her to decide what she needs at what point”.

He said: “I agree completely we need to move as quickly as possible to a robust permanent workforce. But the reality is there are challenges in recruiting the right people and we need to move at pace.”

Surrey County Council pay and terms and conditions are determined by the PPDC , including the remuneration of chief officers and deputy chief officers.

The minimum salary for council staff works out at £16,894, or £9 per hour, and the highest basic salary is £220,000.

The council publishes details of salaries paid to senior staff every year and covers positions with annual salaries of £50,000 or more.

By Rebecca Curley (LDRS)

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