A new council managing director looks set to earn more than Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Derbyshire County Council is effectively bringing back the chief executive role it had earlier scrapped to save money. And even the leader of the ruling Tory group has opposed the projected salary of between £161,000 to £176,000.
The move to bring back the role was decided at a meeting last week, four years after the incoming Conservative administration scrapped the then-£138,000 job. Meanwhile the new role will have an increased annual salary of between £161,000 and £176,000.
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Cllr Barry Lewis, leader of the Tory-run authority, said in the full council meeting, before approving the new salary: “I fully agree that no managing director (in local government) should have a salary greater than that of the Prime Minister.”
Boris Johnson’s total salary as Prime Minister is £161,401, of which £79,496 is for his role as Prime Minister and £81,932 is for being an MP.
Cllr Lewis said: “We are still at the bottom of the pay scales for this role nationally and I am happy to review the senior officer pay scales. I do take the point on the salary, unfortunately that is the standard that has been set in the sector.”
The leaders of each of the parties on the county council all oppose the salary of the new role, but the Conservative majority saw the managing director job and its hiked salary approved.
Labour and Lib Dem leadership called the hiked salary “deeply disappointing”, “obscene” and “ridiculous”.
Cllr Lewis said Labour represented the “pinnacle of hypocrisy” in opposing the return of the role, having called for it to be retained and backing the temporary reinstatement of the role before Christmas.
He said “pretending with all this faux outrage is not a good look” and was “disingenuous”, asking for Labour to “stop with the nonsense”.
Cllr Lewis denied that this was the chief executive role returning under a different name, despite the responsibilities remaining nearly identical.
He said the former role enabled the chief executive to “stand in front” of the council leader and block decisions, while the new role would not allow for that and would see the managing director give “clear, strategic guidance”.
Cllr Ed Fordham, leader of the Liberal Democrats group, said he first found out about the managing director role being made permanent through a call from the press.
He said: “I understand the salary proposal, which is unacceptable. This is an opportunity to look at the size of the salaries for senior management.”
Cllr Joan Dixon, leader of the opposition Labour group, said Cllr Lewis was “showing an uncanny knack for rewriting history”.
She said she was unsure which film the return of the former chief executive role reminded her of, Groundhog Day or Back to the Future.
Cllr Dixon claimed that when the Conservatives came into power in 2017, they found that “some of the faces in senior management did not fit” and sought to “find a way to remove them”.
In 2017, the Conservatives scrapped the role of chief executive, assistant chief executive and strategic director of corporate resources in a bid to save £300,000 a year.
Cllr Dixon said: “What they (the Conservatives) haven’t got the guts to do is to say the cuts to strategic leadership was wrong.
“A chief executive by any other name is a chief executive and we do support the role.
“Derbyshire has lacked a single strategic vision.”
Cllr Dixon said there were council caretakers, working in schools - now outsourced to a company run by Suffolk County Council - who are on £9.40 per hour and are only paid for 44 weeks of the year, during the school term.
She said: “Some of our people in Derbyshire are getting less than the minimum wage. We can’t justify this pay hike.
“Senior staff pay only seems to only go in one direction, up, while the lowest paid staff see their pay go down.”
Cllr Simon Spencer, Conservative deputy leader of the council, said: “We need to pay the appropriate salary. I am uncomfortable with the figure and so are many of my colleagues.
“I understand the concerns about the salary, but we are in a position where we have to pay the person what we have to to match the industry.”
Conservative councillors voted to approve the new role being made permanent, along with the raised salary, while Labour and the Liberal Democrats voted against.
Cllr Lewis confirmed that the council would be paying private firm Korn Ferry Hay Group £83,000 to review the levels it pays senior management.
The lowest salary listed within the county council is £17,840 a year – £9.25 an hour for roles such as school caretakers and cleaners. The new role will be nearly ten times that salary.
Timeline of the chief executive role in recent years:
- July 2017 - Derbyshire County Council scraps chief executive role, assistant chief executive and strategic director of corporate resources in a bid to save £300,000 a year
- August 2017 - Ian Stephenson, outgoing chief executive, leaves his £138,000 post
- September 2017 - strategic director of adult care, Joy Hollister, is appointed head of paid service with £10,000 pay bump above other strategic directors
- April 2018 - Emma Alexander, strategic director of commissioning, communities and policy be designated as head of paid service on a permanent basis
- June 2018 - It is revealed Ian Stephenson received a redundancy payout of £124,694
- November 2020 - Derbyshire County Council’s lead officer role, occupied by Emma Alexander, is upgraded to managing executive director, with a pay hike of £30,000, for one year
- September 2021 - County council approves a move to make managing director role permanent with a salary of up to £176,000 with the job open to internal and external applicants
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