City Council salaries revealed: 63 chiefs share £3m, while hundreds on little more than minimum wage

Birmingham City Council House is in Victoria S...

Birmingham Council House

Hundreds of Birmingham City Council workers are surviving on salaries barely above the national minimum wage while 63 chief officers and their deputies are pocketing between £78,000 and £205,000 a year, it has emerged.

Huge discrepancies between the lowest and highest salaries are set out in a Pay Policy Statement, which the council is required to publish and approve under regulations set out in the Localism Act.

While the statement does not say how many people are at the lowest level – £12,166 for a 37 hour week – the council admitted five years ago that as many as 6,000 staff were likely to be in the bottom salary bracket when a controversial pay and grading restructure had been completed.

Grade One salaries, at the basement of the Birmingham pay deal, range from £12,166 to a maximum £13,724.

For those at the very bottom, wages before deductions amount to £234 a week for jobs thought to include cleaners, cooks, street sweepers, carers and receptionists. They are paid at the rate of £6.32 an hour, compared to £6.08 for the national minimum wage – although many are able to top up their wage packet by earning overtime pay.

By climbing to the top of the seven-stage bottom pay grade, it is possible to increase the weekly wage to £264 – equivalent to £7.13 an hour.

At the top end of the salary structure, city council chief executive Stephen Hughes is paid£205,000 a year, and six strategic directors of services earn between £143,000 and £164,000.

Salaries for the 63 chief officers and their deputies total almost £3 million.

The council is attempting to head off “fat cat” criticism by pointing out that a number of other English council chief executives are paid more than Mr Hughes, and that it is not uncommon for the CEOs of major UK companies to receive almost 20 times as much as Mr Hughes in salary and bonuses.

In Birmingham, the city council’s Director of Legal Services is on £91,000, the Finance Director gets £99,000, and the Director of Public Health is paid £91,000.

The Corporate Resources Department, covering finance, human resources, property and benefits, has 14 chief officers – one director, 11 assistant directors, a head of service delivery, and a head of equality and diversity on salaries ranging from £75,000 to £107,000.

The Children, Young People and Families Department employs nine assistant directors and heads of service who are each paid between £81,000 and £87,000. The Homes and Neighbourhoods Department has eleven chief officers on salaries ranging from £73,000 to £97,000.

Following recommendations set out in the Hutton Report on public sector pay, the council has to specify the difference between its highest and lowest paid officials. Hutton recommended that no council official should earn more than 20 times the amount earned by the lowest paid employee.

In Birmingham’s case, chief executive Stephen Hughes has a salary 16.8 times greater than that of workers on the bottom grade. Mr Hughes’s salary is 10 times greater than the median council wage of £20,198.

However, the council points out in its pay statement that chief officers have not been awarded a cost of living increase since April 2008, while salaries for other local government employees have been frozen since 2009.

The statement also seeks to compare public and private sector pay, claiming that FTSE 100 chief executives have average salaries 202 times the national minimum wage.

The document adds: “For the purpose of context in the local government sector, Birmingham City Council is not only the largest local authority in the UK, but also the largest unitary authority in Europe serving over one million residents and has a budget of £3.5 billion.

“To attract suitable candidates for more senior positions that can demonstrate sufficient skills, experience and capacity required at this level, there is a very small pool from which to recruit with other authorities offering very competitive salaries considering their size.”

The number of chief officers and their salaries is likely to prove a bone of contention if Birmingham gets a directly elected mayor later this year. Sion Simon, generally regarded as favourite for the post, has already said that he would make Mr Hughes redundant and carry out the chief executive responsibilities himself.

It’s understood that Mr Simon would also undertake a radical reorganisation of council departments, saving money by slimming down what he sees as a top-heavy bureaucracy.

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