SPECIAL REPORT: Cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council paid £100k fat cat salaries to 23 people

Fat cat salaries were paid to 23 people at Northamptonshire County Council in 2016/17, a study has revealed.
Fat cat salaries were paid to 23 people at Northamptonshire County Council in 2016/17, a study has revealed.

Nearly two dozen employees of Northamptonshire County Council were paid wages of more than £100,000 last year, a study has revealed, despite being branded one of the worst performing authorities in the country.

A cohort of just 23 employees were paid £3.32 million in the 2016/17 year, a shock report by the Taxpayer’s Alliance has found.

Former chief executive Paul Blantern received a pay-off of more than 95,000.

Former chief executive Paul Blantern received a pay-off of more than 95,000.

One employee earned a whopping £337,0000 in the space of 12 months - though the county council is yet to reveal who that was.

Labour’s shadow cabinet member for finance Councillor Mick Scrimshaw (Lab, Northall) has branded the figures as “ridiculous”.

He said: “For a long time, we have said that senior management are paid too much.

“This amount of spending, given our financial situation, is extraordinary."

The council headquarters, One Angel Square, in Angel Street, Northampton.

The council headquarters, One Angel Square, in Angel Street, Northampton.

The county council says some of the salaries were employees of the company LGSS, meaning their wages were paid between councils in Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Milton Keynes as part of a deal to share back office functions.

But the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TA) said the sheer number of excessive salaries at a council branded the “worst-run in the country” by Conservative MP Philip Hollobone could not be justified.

Chief executive of the TA John O'Connell, said: "With Northamptonshire County Council in such a dire financial state, taxpayers will be shocked to learn that 23 employees at the council took home more than £100,000 last year.

“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 staggering pay-outs for those leaving their jobs.”

County council workers' pay has been frozen for the 2018/19 year.

County council workers' pay has been frozen for the 2018/19 year.

Currently, the authority is advertising for an interim head of finance at LGSS, a position likely to pay more than £100,000 a year.

A freedom of information request by the GMB union revealed the council paid £371,000 to DDL Consultancy, owned by the interim chief executive Damon Lawrenson, during 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Mr Lawrenson stood down via mutual consent last month.

Former chief executive Paul Blantern was given a golden goodbye of at least £95,000 when he resigned last October.

The figures mark Northamptonshire out as the seventh highest council in the country for paying wages over £100,000. Six of the top ten authorities were based in London.

But they also show a sharp rise from last year’s study. In 2015/16, only seven people at County Hall earned more than £100,000.

“Surely now we need to step back and take a look at senior pay levels,” said Councillor Scrimshaw.

“People work in the public sector because they want to be involved in public services.

“If you want to earn more than £100,000, go and work for a merchant bank.”

The news is particularly galling to staff at One Angel Square whose pay was frozen in the recent budget.

Assistant branch secretary for the county council branch, Lorna Smith, said: "It doesn’t feel right that, at a time when we have staff on a pay freeze, we have so many staff being paid a high rate.

“How was this allowed to happen at this county?”

Mrs Smith believes the now defunct plans to move all of the council’s services over to mutual companies, otherwise known as the Next Generation Model, could be behind the sudden rise in executive-level pay in the space of a year.

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: “Staff salaries reflect responsibilities associated with the posts, many of which require highly-qualified, professional staff, while being mindful of the necessity of providing value for money.

“Salaries included in the research also include a number of posts with LGSS, our shared services operation, with salaries shared with Cambridgeshire and Milton Keynes councils. The salaries for two other posts are also split with partner organisations.

“We are open about what our senior officers are paid and this information is easily available on our website.”