SENIOR staff at Basildon Council have been handed a 9 per cent pay rise – despite management restructuring aimed at saving cash.
The Echo can reveal austerity measures, which saw chief executive Bala Mahendran move to a three-day week, have hit lower-paid staff hardest, with 46 losing their jobs.
Meanwhile, the top 18 officers were paid a total of more than £1.5million in 2013/14, an increase of more than £107,000 from the year before the changes.
“Promotional” pay rises of between 3 and 9 per cent for senior staff saw the overall payout soar with “golden handshakes” of up to £86,000 for managers who left in 2013/14, boosting the bill further.
Despite this, council bosses insist the overall restructure, which also affected lower pay bands, saved the authority £302,490 in the last financial year.
Nigel Smith, Labour deputy group leader, said: “So much for all being in it together.
“Frontline jobs have gone and senior staff have got eye watering pay rises of up to 9 per cent.
“These are the people who crossed the picket-line to keep services going during the strikes.
“We have a self-indulgent highpaid culture and large numbers of quite low paid people they have got rid of. We have 18 people who must feel like they have won the lottery every year and everyone else who has had a small win on a scratchcard.”
Top earner remained chief executive Bala Mahendran, despite him going on a three-day week.
From April 2013 to March 2014, he pulled in a total of £190,886 including bonuses, expenses, benefits and pension contributions, despite going part-time last August.
This was just £35,000 less than his total earnings for 2012/13 when he was full-time.
Consultant Cormack Smith was hired on loan from Westminster City Council for £117,000 to act as a council spin doctor. According to the report, a further 29 officers at the council were paid between £50,000 to £80,000 in 2013/14.
Kerry Smith, leader of the Ukip group on the council, said the figures showed councils believed if they did not pay top money, officers would go elsewhere.
He added: “I am a firm believer we should go back to the good old days of having a town clerk and recruiting young people in the borough for junior roles and promoting them to senior roles.
“Why is the taxpayer paying the pensions of people earning more than £100,000? This should be for dustmen and teachers, who give decades of service to local taxpayers.”
Golden handshake payments to staff made redundant through the changes came to £461,834, which is £350,000 more than the previous year.
The biggest, £86,448, went to former executive director Chris White who was made redundant on August 31, 2012.
Labour group leader Byron Taylor added: “In our last manifesto we said we wanted to see a reduction in topend officer pay. We believe there is a culture of high pay in Basildon with top officers taking a big slice of the pie. At the same time, we have 20 people at the council being paid below the living wage and that is not acceptable.”
Simon Gardner, secretary of Unison’s Basildon local government branch, said: “It is not right if employees are offered 1 per cent.
How can it be justified that people get 9 per cent?”
BASILDON Council said its accounts gave the “false impression” senior managers had eceivedwhopping pay rises, when in fact they had been promoted.
Dawn French, commissioning director for corporate support, whose basic salary rose by the equivalent of 9 per cent, said: “As a result of the restructuring, some senior managers were promoted.
“A requirement of the code of practice on local authority accounting is the previous year’s salary is shown, therefore it gives a false impression of a pay rise for the same management positions when in fact this was a promotion.”
The council insisted it had saved £300,000, when changes to staff below the senior managers were also taken into account.
Mrs French added: “The statement of accounts for 2013-14 now shows an increased number of senior managers as a result of the reclassification of senior management positions,
where the council has decided to reduce overall management costs by having a flatter overall management structure.
“This has increased the number of staff who fall within the new senior manager classification, while reducing management positions overall.
“Positions now identified as new senior management positions were either filled as a result of a promotion, on a interim basis, or through recruitment which also results in an overall reduction in the total spend by £302,490.”
The council plans to save a further £200,000 in 2014/15.
She added Mr Mahendran’s bonus was paid a year in arrears, so the higher level had been for the previous full-time service.