County chief to pocket bumper salary

SUFFOLK'S new chief executive is set to pocket around £220,000 a year, The Evening Star can reveal today.

SUFFOLK'S new chief executive Andrea Hill is set to pocket around £220,000 a year, The Evening Star can reveal today.

And the decision to offer such a handsome wage has prompted fury among opposition politicians at the Endeavour House headquarters of the county council.

When councillors met this week to discuss the appointment of the new chief executive, one of their first decisions was to raise the salary cap, allowing them to offer a salary of £220,000 a year - plus benefits.

The county council has decided it is prepared to fork out for the hefty salary to secure a replacement for Mike More who is moving to the flagship Westminster City Council at the start of next month.

Mr More is currently on about £150,000 a year and will see this rise to about £200,000 when he moves to the London council - but that is still £20,000 less than his current employers are prepared to pay.

Labour leader Julian Swainson said his group still felt it was wrong to pay the county's top officer £30,000 more than is paid to the Prime Minister.

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And with the future of the council itself in doubt, he felt the county had its financial priorities all wrong.

He said: “It was decided that the upper limit should be raised and that was a decision we have opposed strongly.

“I can well understand the anger felt by people who are struggling to make ends meet when they hear that the county council is prepared to pay this kind of money for a senior officer.

“We have opposed this appointment on this salary and we shall continue to oppose this appointment - it is totally unjustifiable.”

The salary was also opposed by Ipswich Labour MP and former county council leader Chris Mole.

He said: “I would be interested to see how this salary fits in with some of the really large councils across the country like Kent, Surrey, Birmingham, and indeed Westminster where Mike More is heading for next month.

“When we appointed Lin Homer as Suffolk's first woman chief executive ten years ago, I remember we were well thought of as a council but by no means one of the largest offering the highest salaries.

“This represents more than a 100 per cent increase in salary in comparison with what was on offer then - and I'm not sure whether that is really justified,” he said.

Council leader Jeremy Pembroke was not available to comment, but last week he insisted that Suffolk needed to have a chief executive to drive forward a business with a £1bn budget.

At the same time, the council has been told by its recruitment agency that the £150,000 pay of the current chief executive Mike More “is insufficiently competitive” to secure the continued interest of candidates short-listed for the post.

The county had advertised the post on a pay scale of £154,000-£176,000, but has raised the upper limit to £220,000.

Mr Pembroke said last week: “We have to push on despite the uncertainties of the council's future. We have to deliver a service to our residents on a day-to-day basis and we have to get the right person in charge.

“I do not know what unitary councils the Boundary Committee will decide. But if we are able to recruit a person of great ability to come to Suffolk, then that he or she will have a future in local government in Suffolk.”

SUFFOLK'S proposed salary increase for its chief executive would buy 2,000 hours of day care places in the county, The Star can reveal today.

A spokeswoman for the county council said the average cost of providing day care for adults in Suffolk was about £35 an hour.

The county is prepared to increase the salary it pays its chief executive from the £150,000 a year paid to Mike More to £220,000 - an increase of £70,000.

That sum could buy day care provision for 2,000 people across the county.

RHODA Seeley works for Suffolk.

But her part-time job as a cleaner at a day centre in Felixstowe is under threat from budget cuts - not that it brings in a huge sum.

She has to live on £9,000 a year. Her earnings as a cleaner are supplemented by a small widow's pension, but she saw red when she heard about proposals to pay her new boss her annual salary in just over two weeks.

She said: “I am furious about this. What on earth can anyone do to justify that amount of money, especially when the same organisation is cutting the support it gives to people who need help most.

“The day centre I work at is under threat of closure, I might lose my job in September - the money that is being paid to this person could pay for many day centres.

“How many hours will this person work? No one is worth this and the council have the nerve to pay this out yet close the day centres.

“I've long suspected the world is going mad. Now I know it is.”

Does the county council chief deserve a £220,000 salary? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail