By Cllr. James Daley
Labour is calling for greater powers for members of the Council to scrutinise decisions to employ new highly paid staff – and the same powers to scrutinise decisions to pay staff in a way that could help them avoid taxation.
While the members of the Tory group are well aware that competitive salaries need to be paid to attract high quality candidates, it is right that as a taxpayer funded body, the Council puts maximum pressure on itself to keep these costs down. Over the last few years, we believe the Council has failed to exercise self-restraint, and now has one of the most expensive senior staff payrolls in the country.
There are currently over 20 Wandsworth Council officers paid a salary of more than £100,000 – many more than most London Boroughs. Furthermore, the figures published on the Council’s website disguise the true cost. While Wandsworth was one of the first Boroughs to publish details of its senior officers’ salaries, it has conveniently neglected to include details of officers’ bonuses, private health care and pension contributions. In the case of the chief executive and finance director, for example, these three items added a further 51 and 58 thousand pounds respectively to their total pay packages last year.
So, while there are currently 22 officers who are declared as earning more than £100,000 on the Council website – which is already too many – there are in fact around 40 who are earning over this threshold once bonuses and other benefits have been taken into account.
I want to consider this serious issue of transparency. Why is the Council publishing public documents about staff pay, which omit some 25% of the total cost to taxpayers? I would assert that the leadership of this Council is aware that it has a problem with high pay, and is doing everything it can to pretend it is more moderate than it is.
We have already challenged the leader of the council, Cllr Govindia, on multiple occasions about his commitment to transparency – and remain critical of the way key performance indicators have been selectively chosen to appear on Wandsworth’s Open Council website. Once again, we have found the Council claiming it is transparent, and in line with best practice, when in fact it is fudging the truth.
It’s not hard for most people to see why the Labour group cares so greatly about the inflated salaries on Wandsworth Council. The pay packages of the chief executive and finance director alone amount to more than the savings made by axing school crossing patrols, meals on wheels and the staff at Battersea Adventure Playground.
So we propose that the Council hand over the power to its members to decide whether or not we need to pay a six figure salary before we hire someone. I don’t imagine there are many residents in the Borough who would disagree with that – or any residents at all that would oppose the idea of tighter controls to ensure that we don’t help our staff evade tax.