COVENTRY City Council has approved creating more six-figure salaried posts – despite concerns from councillors across the political divide.
The Coventry Observer exclusively revealed last week the plan for three new permanent director roles earning over £100,000 – AND a permanent executive director overseeing them – in its huge People Directorate.
The super-department created less than two years ago covers crucial areas of children’s services, adults social care and education, as well as other community services including libraries.
The council’s audit committee of just five councillors yesterday (Monday) approved the proposals advocated by top executives Martin Reeves and Chris West.
But Labour councillor David Welsh questioned how more top-end salaries could be justified amid a rapid decline in frontline council services and jobs, with government funding expected to be halved by 2017/8.
He also told the committee not enough information was public, and called for more public debate before making a decision by the council’s cabinet and potentially a scrutiny committee.
Conservative councillor Tim Sawdon said the Tory opposition was being denied a vote.
He claimed there was no need for an expensive permanent executive director – who will earn up to £135,000 in salary alone – as well as the three new director posts, which he supported.
He argued the three new directors could instead report directly to Mr Reeves as chief executive – who as head of paid staff is ultimately accountable to councillors.
But Coun Sawdon backed the salaries for the new posts of director of children’s services and director of adults services.
The committee heard they could be paid a “market supplement” of up to £15,000 each on top of their salaries of between £101,000 and £110,000.
An equivalent third new post of director of education was recently created, and Kirston Nelson appointed.
Councillors including Labour’s Lindsley Harvard called for more evidence that senior management pay would be reduced overall by the changes.
The Coventry Observer revealed last November the council’s top 20 earners are still remunerated around £2.2million between them including pensions – the same as five years ago.
There are concerns the bill for top-end earners is not coming down in proportion to frontline cuts, while council taxpayers are paying more for far fewer services.
Mr West said it was anticipated total savings would be above £500,000 under the changes, with the deletion of assistant director posts.
That forecast appeared to be at odds with a more definitive council statement to the Coventry Observer last week, which had claimed the changes “WILL result in annual savings on senior management salaries in the directorate of between £660,000 and £690,000 from September 2015 compared to October 2014.”
Those savings are relative to a further £60million of expected cuts over three years.
The three new director positions will replace current lower paid ‘deputy director’ positions.
Officers were unclear about how many other councils had such a senior management structure, but said the salaries had to be competitive to attract strong candidates.
Mr Reeves, who earns above £200,000, said some councils had removed the post of chief executive.
But he suggested a chief executive’s role was too vast to oversee the new director posts.
The executive director was needed to oversee the three new directors, who he said would head up crucial statutory services.
They include children’s services rated “inadequate” by Ofsted after the Daniel Pelka tragedy.
Independent reports nationally including a key review by Lord Laming have argued more permanent and qualified frontline staff are required to properly tackle a crisis in child protection.
We reported last week interim executive director Brian Walsh is set to depart, as is deputy director of adults social care Mark Godfrey.