Council Officer Rich List

(Guardian) – THE NUMBER of local council staff on six-figure pay packages has risen 14% in the last year last year thanks to inflation-busting pay rises, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) annual “town hall rich list“. It finds 31 senior officials earning more than the Prime Minister and 219 paid better than cabinet ministers.

The average 2008/9 increase in the remuneration packages of the top earners was 5% – twice that given to nurses and teachers – despite intense pressure to rein in public spending. New rules introduced by the Government amid concern at spiralling pay and perks at local authorities came into force yesterday, forcing local authorities to publish more details.

The TPA research – based on replies to freedom of information requests – identified at least 1,250 council staff getting £100,000 or more – 151 more than in 2007/8 – averaging £2,418 a week. There was also an increase in the very top pay scales, with 166 on packages worth more than £150,000 – up from 135 the previous year. It identified Kent as the county council with the most officers on six-figures sums (27) and Liverpool the metropolitan district with most (22) – although not all councils responded.

Castle Point Borough Council responded to the FOI request on 6th January 2010. They referred the enquirers to its Website to discover names of the officers concerned. This is what the TPA discovered:-

Name Position 2007-08 2008-09 % Increase 2008-09 Band
David Marchant Chief Executive £145,000 £155,000 6.9% £150,000 – £160,000
Devinia Board Strategic Director Improving the Borough £105,000   £100,000 – £110,000
Andrew Smith Strategic Director Improving the Council £105,000   £100,000 – £110,000
Alan Longford Director of Health & Housing £115,000   £110,000 – £120,000
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Ministers And Shadow Ministers Renounce MPs’ Pay Rise – But Bob Has Yet To Comment

MPS QUEUED UP to renounce a pay rise worth almost £1,000 today; but Bob Spink, our local MP, has yet to announce where he stands on the issue.

John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, said he would not take the money because it would be “extremely inappropriate” to accept a 1.5% rise, due to kick in next month, in the aftermath of the expenses debacle.

Downing Street also made it clear that ministers would not take the extra money following a recommendation by the Senior Salaries Review Body.

The Conservatives made the same pledge.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, and his Treasury spokesman, Vincent Cable, are also understood to be planning to forego the rise.

The 1.5% increase – revealed by the Guardian yesterday – is arrived at by identifying the median of the pay increases received by 15 groups of public sector workers for 2009, and will see MPs’ basic pay rise from £64,766 to £65,737.

Downing Street said ministers had also agreed to freeze their own pay.

A spokeswoman said: “The prime minister is clear that we need to strengthen public confidence in the political system and reduce the cost of politics. That is why paid government ministers will not be accepting the pay rise in MP salaries generated by the annual formula and based on the average pay award across the public sector in the previous year.”

Members of the Conservative party who receive ministerial salaries will have both the ministerial and MP elements of their salaries frozen, according to a Tory spokeswoman.

“If we win the election and form the next government, incoming ministers will inherit the ministerial salaries that the government is setting today – including the MP element. We will then immediately cut them by 5%, and freeze them for a further five years,” she said.

Bob will no doubt inform residents of his own intentions when he holds his ‘Listening Panel,’ tonight, at 7:30pm.

… (Reuters, 09/03/2010) – Voters seek revenge over expenses scandal

Hundreds Of Thousands Of Civil Servants To Strike

(Telegraph) – UP TO 270,000 civil servants including benefits staff, tax officers and border officials will stage a two-day strike over plans to cut their early retirement payments.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union will walk out for 48 hours from March 8.

The union said the striking workers also include Jobcentre staff, coastguards, courts staff and driving test examiners.

Ministers warned that voters will have little sympathy for the union for rejecting a deal that has been accepted by other civil service unions.

The dispute is over plans to cut redundancy payouts for long serving civil servants in their 50s from a maximum of six years’ salary to just two years’ salary.

The change is forecast to save taxpayers £500 million over three years.

Ministers privately say the current scheme was excessively generous, encouraging civil servants to “sit on their hands and wait for the jackpot payday” when they retire.

In talks over the changes, the Cabinet Office had offered to guarantee £50,000 for all low-paid officials who were made redundant.

That was accepted by five other public sector unions – representing 100,000 civil servants – but rejected by the PCS.

Mark Serwotka, the PCS general secretary said more strikes will follow unless ministers back down.

He said: “These cuts, which will see loyal civil and public servants lose tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced out of a job, are more about crude politicking than making savings.

“With civil and public service jobs increasingly at risk, this is a cynical attempt to cut jobs on the cheap which will ultimately damage the services we all rely on. The government needs to recognise the depth of anger which has been demonstrated by this ballot result and find the political will to negotiate a settlement that avoids a sustained campaign of industrial action.”

Tessa Jowell, minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “The public will find it difficult to understand the PCS continuing to protest on their own against a package which brings the Civil Service into line with the rest of the public sector and still offers more generous terms than much of the private sector.

She added that all Government departments have plans in place to “minimise any disruption” to members of the public caused by the strike.

Tax Payers Could Pay Too Much Due To HMRC’s New System

(Telegraph) – TAXPAYERS HAVE BEEN WARNED that they could end up paying too much tax later this year after HM Revenue & Customs introduced a new computer system.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation said wrong information may have been sent out to “huge numbers of people” and warned that unless it was corrected, it could cost them hundreds of pounds.

The group said many people with complex tax affairs – workers with more than one job, or separate sources of income – had been sent out so-called “coding notices”, many of which could be wrong.

It said if the error was not corrected by the time the new codes come into force in April, wrong information could be sent to employers and pension companies, leading to them deducting too much tax through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) scheme.

In the worst case, the group said people could pay £108 a month, or £1,295 a year, too much.

Twice as many coding notices have been sent out this than in previous years after HM Revenue & Customs introduced a new computer system to simplify tax collecting. Up to 25 million codes were sent out this year, compared with 12 million last year.

The CIOT said: “It is clear that a significant proportion of these are wrong.”

An HMRC spokesman said that “with the best will in the world, there might be some incorrect codes” but added that taxpayers had two months to check their codes and inform the tax office if there was an error.

However, Andrew Hubbard, president of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, said: “Most people on PAYE are used to assuming that what the taxman sends them is correct. Many file away coding notices without even bothering to check them.

“But this year, many of them are being given wrong information and unless they spot it and tell HMRC, their employer will receive the wrong information too and they could get a nasty shock when they open their April pay packet and see it is as much as a hundred pounds lighter than they are expecting.

Coding notices are sent to many people in the PAYE system each year between the beginning of January and the first week of March.

This year’s problem has arisen as the result of the introduction of a new system, which combines information on people’s National Insurance contributions and PAYE for the first time.

In some cases, the system appears not to have information on people leaving jobs, meaning those who have changed jobs during the past few years are often being treated as if they have two jobs, and much higher earnings than they do.

This could lead, in the worst case scenario, to taxpayers losing out on £108 in their April pay packet, equating to to an annual loss of £1,295.

A spokesman for HMRC said: “The new system is working as it should. It creates a single record for customers for the first time, and this, together with increased automation compared to previous years, is resulting in many more people having more accurate codes than before.

“As part of our transition to this new system, in this first year, as the system we also expect some the codes we issue to be incorrect.”

Fall In Official Unemployment Rate Masks Rise In ‘Hidden Jobless’

(Independent) – FRESH HOPES that the worst is over for Britain’s battered economy were raised yesterday after forecasters were confounded by the first fall in unemployment for 18 months.

But the figures showed that the country still has a growing army of eight million “economically inactive” people, with the size of the labour market declining to 28.92 million. The rate of employment is now at its lowest level since the winter of 1996-97.

Official figures showed that the headline jobless rate for the three months to November fell 7,000 to 2.46 million, the first fall since the quarter ending May 2008. The number of 16- to 24-year-olds out of work fell from 943,000 to 927,000.

However increasing numbers of people are being forced into part-time work – a record high of 7.71 million, up 99,000. Just over a million employees and self-employed people were working part-time because they were unable to find full-time jobs, another record figure.

That bodes ill for consumer spending – an important driver for the recovery – because part-time workers are typically paid poorly. Another worrying figure was issued by the left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research. It warned that half of all black people aged 18 to 24 were jobless compared with 20 per cent among white people of the same age.

Economists remain divided on whether the unemployment rate has peaked or will rise again over the next few months. However, they said that despite some disturbing trends, the figures still show that the labour market has proved remarkably resilient compared with previous recessions and to competitors such as the US.

While Britain’s economy has contracted by 6 per cent during the worst recession since the Second World War, the rate of unemployment has yet to top 8 per cent. That compares to the US where the economy contracted by 3.9 per cent but the rate of unemployment topped 10 per cent. Following the recession of the early 1980s the jobless total rose by just over two million; in the early 1990s recession it rose by 1.4 million. If it really has peaked, this time it will have risen by less than 850,000.

Economists believe that the likely explanation is an increased willingness among workers to accept lower pay or to work part-time to preserve their jobs. The theory was born out by government data on wages. Total pay including bonuses rose by just 0.7 per cent on a year earlier while regular pay (excluding bonuses) increased by 1.1 per cent.

A number of companies have explored ways of keeping staff through the downturn by offering reductions in hours and pay as alternatives to redundancy – some employees have been given the option of taking unpaid sabbaticals if they wish to pursue education or other interests.

This has allowed firms to reduce payrolls during the downturn while keeping hold of skilled employees.

David Page, economist at Investec, said the data added further weight to the view that the surprise figures showing Britain remained in recession in the third quarter were “wrong”.

However, he pointed out that productivity in the US was much higher than in the UK. “It means that as the US comes out of recession, companies are likely to hire more aggressively because they are getting all they can out of their staff. That is not the case in Britain where productivity has been falling and companies may not need to take on more staff for some time.”

Ministers warned yesterday that unemployment would probably rise again over the coming months. The need to cut the country’s budget deficit after the general election is also all but certain to lead to job losses in the public sector. Its continued expansion through the recession has eased the pressure on unemployment as private-sector firms have shed staff.

MPs Call For Curb On Top Earners After Super-tax Flops

(Independent) – THE SUPER-TAX on bankers’ bonuses has failed, MPs warned last night as they demanded curbs on the pay and perks of all top earners, not just those in the City.

More than 100 MPs have signed a Commons motion calling for the setting up of a “high pay commission” to limit the remuneration of the highest earners. The move comes as banks prepare to announce big profits and growing signs that bankers are escaping the 50 per cent super-tax on bonuses of more than £25,000 because it is being absorbed by their employers.

The super-tax was announced by Alistair Darling in his pre-Budget report last month amid mounting concern over bank bonuses and the £850bn bailout of the banks by taxpayers after the financial crisis. The Chancellor’s main aim was to deter banks from paying bonuses but this has not worked, MPs claim. One side effect is that the Treasury is receiving more tax revenue than the £500m it originally expected.

The banks’ actions have fuelled demands among Labour MPs for a commission to regulate top pay to mirror the Low Pay Commission, which recommends the national minimum wage for the lowest earners.

Although ministers have not backed the call for a new commission, Labour MPs and grassroots activists will press for the plan to be included in the party’s general election manifesto. They claim it would enjoy widespread public support and bolster Labour’s pitch to be acting for “the many” while accusing the Conservatives of representing the interests of “the few”.

John Battle, a former minister who tabled the Commons motion, told The Independent: “As we come out of a recession into economic growth it is now the time once again to consider the disparity in incomes that exists within the UK. We cannot begin to examine or develop a fairness argument without examining the effects that increased wealth concentrated at the top of society has caused to social inequality.”

He added: “Following the financial crash and the aftermath of the credit crunch, bailing out the banks this is an issue that we cannot ignore anymore. It’s not simply a case of taking away from bankers’ bonuses as they are the target of public concern, the key is to address wage imbalances and bring about an end to inequality through excessive pay.”

Gavin Hayes, general secretary of the democratic left pressure group Compass, which is campaigning for a new commission, said it was “imperative the Government now establishes a high pay commission if we are to avoid another financial crisis”.

The Commons motion has been backed by 73 Labour MPs, 19 Liberal Democrats and nine MPs from minority parties.

It says the proposed commission should examine the effects of high pay on the economy and society and the links between “excessive pay” and the financial crisis. It points out that in the past 30 years, people on median incomes have seen their pay increase at less than the average while the super-rich, including chief executive officers, have seen their pay increase to 76 times that of the average worker.

The motion says the commission should investigate the questionable link between economic performance and high pay and the social effects of inequality due to the increase of wealth concentrated at the top of society. It also calls for an inquiry to bring all the facts into the public domain.

NHS Hospitals Pay £146 Per Hour For Temporary Nurses As Agency Costs Soar

(Telegraph) – NHS HOSPITALS have been paying agency nurses, doctors and managers up to £400 an hour to cover staff absences, new figures show.

The cost to the health service of hiring agency staff to work shifts has risen by 60 per cent in the last two years to nearly £1.3 billion.

Figures uncovered by the Conservatives show that one hospital trust was paying agency nurses £146 an hour, the equivalent of an annual salary of £258,000 and around 10 times the rate received by full time staff.

Doctors at another hospital received £375 an hour while managers at a third were paid £400.

On average, employment agencies received a 26 per cent cut of each agency worker’s wages, meaning an estimated £300 million of NHS money was spent on firms which supplied hospitals with agency staff.

The payments were described as “unforgivable” by Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary.

Three years ago, and with the bill for temporary staff standing at £786 million, Patricia Hewitt, the then-health secretary, said that it was “common sense” to cut back on agency workers in the NHS.

Since then, however, the charges have risen by nearly half a billion pounds and now cost twice as much as the bill for cancer drugs and nearly as much as the NHS spends on maternity services.

Figures released in response to a series of Freedom of Information requests show that Yeovil District Hospitals Trust paid the highest rate for agency nurses, £146 an hour.

Temporary doctors at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Trust received £375 an hour – equivalent to an annual salary of £660,000.

And the Whittington Hospital NHS Trust in north London paid £400 an hour for an information management and technology officer – equivalent to an annual salary of £705,000.

Many of the agency staff were paid at an hourly rate higher than David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive, whose salary last year was £225,000.

More than a third of spending on agency staff went on hiring on managers, administrators and clerical staff while only a fifth was on nurses.

Mr Lansley said: “This is a hugely wasteful way to run the NHS. Only under a Labour Government could an efficiency drive actually result in rising spending on temporary and agency staff.

“It is unforgivable that more than £300 million of taxpayers’ money intended for the NHS is instead going to employment agencies.

“The least we could have expected after all the billions that Labour poured into the NHS was a properly managed workforce. But, as ever, Gordon Brown failed to get taxpayers value for money.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “It is the responsibility of NHS trusts to plan and manage their demand for temporary nursing staff in the context of local business and workforce planning.

“Temporary staff have, and continue to have, a key role in helping the NHS to respond to fluctuations in demand for services and in staff availability.

“Increasing the quality of, and achieving best value for money from temporary staffing is an important aspect of workforce planning in the NHS.”