48 council staff on double the average Hastings wage

A SMALL army of town hall workers are pocketing more than twice the average wage of a worker in Hastings - with four officers paid a mammoth four times that amount.

A total of 48 members of staff at Hastings Borough Council take home more than £35,890, according to figures obtained by the Observer under the Freedom of Information Act.

That is double the £17,945 average wage of a full-time worker in Hastings according to the latest Government figures.

And the Observer also learnt this week that the cash-strapped local authority shelled out £136,919 on company cars and a further £48,793 on taxis and public transport for staff during 2010.

And councillors claimed an additional £6,700 on petrol and transport costs, leaving the overall total at a whopping £192,412.

Company cars were given to 34 employees in 2010 and the average wage of a full-time council worker was £24,623.716.

Seven officers take home more than £53,835 - including the quartet on more than quadruple the town’s average income.

The authority’s chief executive, Roy Mawford, earns between £88,698 and £98,553 - with the council refusing to publish specifics for the top ten earners.

His deputy, Neil Dart, is paid between £72,111 and £80,124 a year, and two executive directors make up the best paid foursome taking home more than £70,000 every 12 months.

The local authority has already been criticised for spending almost £300,000 on printing and photocopying in the last year.

And in another Observer investigation, it was revealed that around half of the senior officers at the town hall live outside of the area.

With the authority shedding 44 jobs and cutting back on a raft of services and funding to local groups, these new figures are likely to alarm locals.

The Taxpayers Alliance, which monitors the spending of councils across the UK, reacted angrily.

The group’s spokesman Emma Boon told the Observer: “With huge pressures on Hastings Borough Council’s budget it is important that senior staff salaries and perks like company cars are carefully scrutinised to ensure that they provide value for money.

“The council must look at its own organisation for efficiency savings and ways to cut spending as well as reassessing which services it provides to taxpayers.

“Residents will be rightly angry if high paid town hall employees refuse to take a small pay reduction whilst cutting services elsewhere.”

And it was a sentiment echoed by Hastings MP Amber Rudd, who has often criticised the council for using the Government as a scapegoat for local cuts.

She said: “To be spending that sort of money on companys cars and transport when some charities are seeing grants reduced or in some cases stopped is nothing short of disgraceful.

“A strong leader or chief executive would say ‘We are all taking these cuts’. Should people at the top be taking a token pay cut to make sure some services can remain? Of course they should.

“The council likes to blame the Government but clearly these figures show we are not all in this together.”

Councillor Jeremy Birch defended the council’s high average wage, saying: “You get what you pay for.”

“When you are trying to recruit a skilled planning officer you have to pay what other authorities will or you will not attract people to Hastings.

“You have to pay the going rate.”

He also boasted that the authority pays higher wages for low-paid jobs than other local employers, with the council’s average wage sitting around £7,000 higher than the town-wide total.

He said: “I am proud we pay people more. I do not believe in a low wage economy.

“The average wage for Hastings is not something we should be aspiring to.”

However, Ms Rudd remained unconvinced by the merits of council staff being paid more than others in the private sector. She said: “I am of the belief that people should not be paid more purely because they work in the public sector.

“The council is robbing people who do similar jobs by using their taxes to pay inflated wages to someone doing the same thing.

“It is punishing people just because they don’t happen to work for the council.”