LAST week’s article about council staff salaries and expenses was interesting but as a debate became clouded by both sides using generalised arguments and I think there needs to be more creative thinking around the issue. Both sides require some taking to task.
Firstly Amber Rudd: In criticising the council’s pay she ignores a number of issues:
The council does not employ specialist local government staff in a vacuum; it competes with other local authorities across the country and therefore needs to compete in this market.
She appears to expect the local council to pay at Hastings labour market rates; should she not as local MP also be criticising the local businesses who pay such low rates of pay that Hastings as a town has an average wage of £17,945 against a UK average of £24,000?
She seems to be expecting the Big Society mantra of wanting local service to be run by unpaid volunteers to apply to all council jobs.
Why does she not also condemn local GPs or school heads for earning far in excess of local wage rates? These are also paid for by the taxpayer.
It would be interesting to know what she considers to be jobs in the private sector that ‘do the same thing’ as many council jobs.
Here she needs to beware of falling into the trap of the private good/public bad debate.
Remember the private sector charges full rates when it undertakes work for public sector organisations, they do not discount it as it is taxpayers’ money. Those with Ms Rudd’s views excuse a private sector firm who provide public services but pay wages to their senior executives far in excess of the public sector but fund these wages (in part of wholly) via the taxpayer.
As to Councillor Birch:
He should avoid taking too much credit for the salaries of his staff when they are the result of national pay bargaining set into national pay grades - not an exclusive reserve of Hastings Borough Council.
He should beware making further redundancies whilst paying perks to senior staff, if indeed £136,00 is spent on providing ‘company cars’ to individual officers rather than working vehicles e.g. vans, then this needs to be cut ahead of people’s jobs.
Wishing Tree Road, St Leonards