Calls to freeze the pay of senior county council officers have been rejected by a group of East Sussex councillors.
On Tuesday (March 5), East Sussex County Council’s governance committee met to set the authority’s annual pay offer for its managers and leadership team.
Comprised of the leaders of the council’s largest political groups and two other Conservative cabinet members, the governance committee agreed to grant a two per cent pay increase to the authority’s chief executive, chief officers, deputy chief officers and local managers, mirroring a national pay increase for other council workers.
While a two per cent pay increase for middle managers was approved without debate, Liberal Democrat group leader David Tutt called for a freeze in pay for the most senior officers in light of recent service cuts.
Cllr Tutt said: “I recognise the work that is done by our chief executive and chief officer team however I am going to propose a freeze on chief officer pay.
“I say that not because I don’t believe they work extremely hard to deliver for the people of East Sussex, but in the context of what will be considerable cuts in service provision as a result of having to make savings.
“It becomes increasingly difficult to justify the size of the salaries we are offering. I say that in the context that the pain needs to be shared by chief officers.
“I will go further and say it needs to be shared by councillors as well. I would be quite happy to see a pay freeze for councillors too.”
However other committee members disagreed with Cllr Tutt’s argument, including council leader Keith Glazier and deputy leader David Elkin.
Cllr Glazier said: “It is not pure coincidence that our chief executive is leading the co-ordination of Brexit proposals for the South East.
“Our team are held in high regard now across this country and I would not want to risk losing anyone, so I am quite happy to [approve the recommendations].”
Cllr Glazier also said he felt the executive team had ‘performed over and above’ what was expected.
Cllr Tutt’s argument was also opposed by Labour group leader Trevor Webb, who had been attending the meeting as a substitute for Cllr Godfrey Daniel.
According to a report to the committee, the council’s senior officers are collectively paid around £1.5m per annum. A two per cent pay increase will cost the council an additional £31,000 each year, the report says.
Earlier in the meeting committee also agreed a two per cent increase in the pay offer for council managers, which was agreed with unions in line with a national pay increase of two per cent for other council staff.
The national pay award is set following negotiations by the National Joint Council (NJC) for local government services.