The number of council staff in East Sussex earning more than £100,000 last year has been revealed in a new report.
In its annual ‘town hall rich list’, the Taxpayers’ Alliance claims that a total of 26 council staff across East Sussex earned total remuneration packages more than £100,000 in 2017/18.
However the figures have come in for criticism from some councils as the gross figures include employer pension contributions and expenses as well as basic salary.
For example, Rother District Council is reported to have three staff members who earned more than £100,000 in 2017/18 – but the council says none of its staff receive a salary of this size.
A spokesman for the council said: “None of our employees received a gross salary of £100,000 or more. The figures quoted in the Taxpayers’ Alliance report included additional benefits such as pension contributions and other costs.
“Senior officer roles come with considerable responsibility and, to ensure we attract candidates with the expertise and experience required to run the services residents are reliant on, we need to pay a competitive salary in line with similar local government posts in the south east.
“Unlike many councils, Rother does not have a chief executive post which was removed in 2013, saving the taxpayer more than £135,000.
“In recent years, we have been able to bridge funding gaps through efficiency savings, new partnerships and devolvement of assets and some services to keep council tax increases and service cuts to a minimum.”
According to the report: 11 of the staff earning more than £100,000 in 2017/18 worked for East Sussex County Council; six worked between Lewes District Council and Eastbourne Borough Council; two for Hastings Borough Council; three for Rother District Council; and four for Wealden District Council.
When employer pension contributions are excluded, however, the total number of staff earning more than £100,00 drops from 26 to 15.
Of the top ten highest earning council staff in East Sussex, eight worked for the county council.
The two other top spots were taken by the chief executive of Wealden District Council and the joint chief executive of Lewes and Eastbourne councils.
The largest single salary was paid to East Sussex County Council’s chief executive Becky Shaw, who earned £190,000 in basic pay plus employer pension contributions of around £34,000.
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “Our senior officers are responsible for a gross annual budget of nearly £800 million and more than 5,000 staff who deliver vital services to the people of East Sussex.
“The scale of the leadership challenge running a complex organisation and services in the face of significant financial challenge, complex needs and multiple risks is significant.
“It is therefore extremely important that we are able to attract the best candidates, who have the skills, experience and knowledge to carry out their role effectively, and our policy is to pay all of our staff – including senior managers – salaries which are in line with the average pay grade for those doing similar jobs in the public sector in the south east.
“In recent years we have reduced the number of senior managers by a quarter, and details of senior officer pay is publically available on the council’s website.”
The next largest group of council staff earning more than £100,000 were employed between Eastbourne Borough Council and Lewes District Council.
However, only two received basic salaries above £100,000 excluding pension contributions – the chief executive and deputy chief executive.
The councils also share a senior leadership team as a result of the ongoing Joint Transformation Programme, which has seen the neighbouring authorities merge their services in an effort to cut costs.
A spokesman for both councils said: “Eastbourne Borough Council and Lewes District Council now share services, meaning there is one chief executive and one senior management team.
“This major change has created a combined saving of 25 per cent on senior officer salaries; having one chief executive has alone saved £90,000.
“Overall, the Joint Transformation Programme between Eastbourne and Lewes has generated savings of £3.2 million. This saving has been achieved without making cuts to frontline services.”
Wealden District Council meanwhile employed four staff with total remuneration packages of more than £100,000, of which two had basic salaries above £100,000.
A council spokesman said: “Wealden District Council serves one of the largest districts in the South East.
“Its pay policy is approved by our elected members and we believe provides outstanding value for what we have achieved for our local residents; and when compared to the salaries awarded for roles of similar responsibility in the private sector.
“Details of our senior salaries are published on the transparency pages of the Wealden website.”
Hastings Borough Council meanwhile was reported to have two employees earning more than £100,000 – neither of whom earnt basic salaries of more than £90,000.
Both employees – the council’s most senior officers as it does not employ a chief executive – however received lease cars as part of their remuneration packages.
The council is also a living wage employer (as set by the Living Wage Foundation) and has kept its pay ratio to 3.5:1. That means the highest paid employee at the council is paid three and a half times as much a medium level employee.
Commenting on the council’s pay policy, lead councillor for corporate services Judy Rogers said: “We compare well with local government employers across the country.
“I am very proud of the fact that we pay £9 an hour as a minimum, plus the employer’s contribution to the local government pension scheme.
“Hastings Borough Council takes its responsibilities as an employer very seriously. The career opportunities available for our staff make a real positive difference to the lives of our residents finance, regeneration, project management, town planning, legal and democratic services, and housing.”