PM hits out at council bosses' huge salaries

SUFFOLK and Essex county councils have been accused by the Prime Minister of losing touch with reality for paying their chief executives more than �200,000 a year.

Graham Dines

SUFFOLK and Essex county councils have been accused by the Prime Minister of losing touch with reality for paying their chief executives more than �200,000 a year.

In future, public bodies will have to justify paying their senior officers more than �150,000 after Gordon Brown announced a crackdown on “the culture of excess”.

In the week of the Pre-Budget Report which is expected to slash billions of pounds of public spending, the Prime Minister said there were 300 public servants in the UK who earn in excess of �200,000 a year.

Branding the high salaries as “unacceptable” - Essex county's chief Joanna Killian earns �247,000 a year and Suffolk's top officer Andrea Hill �218,000 - Mr Brown said: “In the wider public sector, some senior pay and perks packages have . . . lost touch with the reality of people's lives.

“Money which should be spent on health, on schools, on policing and on social services is, in some cases, going on excessive salaries and unjustified bonuses, far beyond the expectation of the majority of workers.”

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The Prime Minister said it was unacceptable that 300 local council officials were paid more than �150,000 and more than 300 across the public sector got �200,000 or more, he said.

In future, where senior managerial appointments were not directly under government control, ministers will expect the organisations in question to justify to the relevant secretaries of state and to the public any proposed high salaries.

David Finch, a member of Essex county council's cabinet, said that setting an arbitrary limit for pay at a national level flew in the face of local democracy and failed to take into account the responsibilities of individual certain job.

“Decisions such as these should be taken at the local level and decided by local politicians who are fully accountable via the ballot box to local people.

“We take the view that we need people of quality if we are to bring about radical and major change and if we are to deliver enhanced services and value for money for the people of Essex.”

Jeremy Pembroke, Suffolk county's leader, said the council was one of the most cost efficient councils in the country and his administration has achieved �70 million in savings for local taxpayers.

“We deliver exceptional services at exceptional value and that means getting the very best people possible to do the job, the people of Suffolk deserve no less.”