Agencies blamed for six-figure salaries

HEADHUNTERS were today being blamed for driving up the salaries of top council officers.Suffolk County Council deputy leader Peter Monk – who also leads the Liberal Democrat group at Endeavour House – broke ranks after The Evening Star revealed that two senior appointments could spark a wage spiral among top officers.

HEADHUNTERS were today being blamed for driving up the salaries of top council officers.

Suffolk County Council deputy leader Peter Monk - who also leads the Liberal Democrat group at Endeavour House - broke ranks after The Evening Star revealed that two senior appointments could spark a wage spiral among top officers.

The county council is to debate the appointment of a new Director of Children's Services at its meeting on Thursday.

It is proposing to advertise the post - which would replace the position of director of learning - at a salary of £110,000.

However the Star understands the council would be prepared to pay up to £120,000 a year to get the right candidate.

The council is also planning to appoint a new Director of Public Protection to replace chief fire officer Malcolm Alcock - at a salary of £95,000 to £100,000.

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Until now county council directors' salaries have been about £80,000 a year. Last year chief executive Mike More earned between £100,000 and £110,000 and his salary would have to be increased so there remains a differential with other directors.

Mr Monk - who is part of the national employers' team which negotiates council salaries - said today that the big increases at the top were being driven by outside agencies looking to appoint top people.

"They are creating a market for what are seen as top people - and that is creating a spiral which is pulling up other top salaries," he said.

"It doesn't go down well with other members of staff at the council - we have just negotiated a three-year deal for increases of 2.75, 2.95 and 2.95 per cent and to see the top people leapfrogging like this is not good for morale.

"I don't think there is any need to pay these big salaries - I'm sure there are people who could do the job for the current director's salary."

Mr Monk felt that referring to the rates paid by other counties merely pushed up the cost to the council.

"We keep hearing about the 'going rate' but that is really something created by the headhunters.

"We all know what they do: they'll say 'He really wants to come to Suffolk but he'll need another £8,000.' That's how they operate."

Mr Monk felt some good applicants - especially those already working for the council - could be put off applying for the job because of the activities of headhunters and the high salary on offer.

"We want to appoint someone who wants to work for Suffolk - not someone who just wants the highest salary they can find in the country," he said.

While Mr Monk - who is part of the administration at Endeavour House - has great concern about the appointment, Conservative opposition leader Jeremy Pembroke said he accepted the need to pay such a high salary.

"We need to get someone in place in that role and if you look at what other local authorities are offering you'll see it is less than many of them.

"If we don't offer enough then we risk not getting the right calibre of applicant coming forward," he said.

Do you think top council salaries are too high? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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