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Sunderland council spent £1.6m on pay of just three employees in 2015-16

Sunderland City Council spent over £1.6m on the pay of just three of its senior employees in 2015-16, data released by the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has found.

In its tenth ‘Town Hall Rich List’, it was also found that over 2,000 council employees cashed in pay checks of over £100,000 nationwide last financial year, whilst 539 earned in excess of £150,000 – 53 more people than the year before.

Southwark Council was also found to be paying 44 members of staff in excess of £100,000, an increase of 26 from the previous year.

The news follows a warning issued by a report into senior public salaries which argued that should pay limitations be enforced, councils may struggle to hold on to their high-level staff.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TPA, claimed that the findings proved the huge disparity between staff wages in the public sector, and was difficult to justify with increasingly rising council tax bills.

“The average council tax bill has gone up by more than £900 over the last 20 years and spending has gone through the roof,” O’Connell stated.

He also said it was disappointing that local authorities were responding to the financial reality through further tax rises and reducing services rather than scaling back top pay.

“Despite many in the public sector facing a much-needed pay freeze to help bring the public finances under control, many town hall bosses are continuing to pocket huge remuneration packages, with the number of people on six-figure deals actually going up since last year,” the chief exec added.

“There are talented people in the public sector who are trying to deliver more for less, but the sheer scale of these packages raise serious questions about efficiency and priorities.”

However, Cllr Claire Kober, chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, argued that councils were still committed to delivering value for money to tax payers.

“Councils are large, complex organisations with sizeable budgets and responsibility for delivering more than 700 services, including caring for the elderly and disabled and protecting children,” she stated. “It is important that the right people with the right skills and experience are retained to deliver this work.

“The pay of senior council staff is set by politically proportionate committees of elected councillors and is open to a high level of scrutiny and democratic accountability as a result.”

A DCLG spokesperson said: "Whilst pay remains a matter for individual local authorities, ministers have been clear that they expect council to show restraint from excessive rises, especially when it comes to senior staff.

"We’ve taken steps to make sure councils are more transparent on how they set pay and can be held accountable by local residents.”

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