Essex County Council defends salaries paid to top earners

ESSEX County Council has defended paying more than £100,000 to each of 36 employees last year, despite facing tough budget cuts.

The authority has the second-highest number of officers earning six-figure sums – only Camden, with 40, has more.

The council says that as one of the largest local authorities in the country, it has to award its top staff larger pay packages, which include pension contributions and other payments.

The council shares its chief executive, Joanna Killian, with Brentwood Borough Council.

She is paid a salary of £225,000 and earned a total of £254,880, including pension contributions and other payments – making her the seventh-highest paid council executive in the country.

The figures are revealed by the Tax Payers Alliance (TPA), which publishes its Town Hall Rich List 2013 today looking at the number of “town hall tycoons” in the UK.

An Essex County Council spokeswoman said the authority had an annual budget of more than £2billion to manage and needed “talented and engaged individuals” to lead its staff.

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She said: “In addition to this it is currently running one of the largest and most challenging transformation programmes in the country and has delivered savings of more than £364m over the past four years.

“This makes it a large and complex organisation to manage, requiring talented and engaged individuals to be employed.”

The TPA report shows an overall 11 per cent drop in the number of local authority employees across the country receiving a six-figure remuneration package.

TPA chief executive Matthew Sinclair welcomed the news that the number of highly paid officers had gone down nationally.

“It is good news that the number of senior council staff making more than £100,000 a year is finally falling, although that may only be because many authorities have finished paying eye-watering redundancy bills,” he said.

“Sadly, too many local authorities are still increasing the number of highly paid staff on their payroll, some of whom are given hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation just to move from one public sector job to another.

“Residents won’t be impressed if their council pleads poverty when it is demanding more and more council tax, only then to spend it creating more town hall tycoons.”