Council defends manager’s pay rise

Enfield Civic Centre
Enfield Civic Centre

Report by Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A 19% pay rise for a senior officer at Enfield Council was linked to a management shake-up that saved £1million per year, chief executive Ian Davis has said.

The £31,478 increase in salary and pension contributions awarded to executive director of place Sarah Cary was partly down to her taking on extra responsibilities following the start of the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, Ian explained.

Members of Community First – a group of former Enfield Labour councillors – previously criticised the hike, which took the officer’s total remuneration to nearly £200,000 in 2019/20, claiming it may have breached the council’s pay policy.

But speaking at the staff appeals, appointments and remuneration committee on Tuesday, Ian said the increase came after the council cut the number of executive director roles from four to three – part of a wider restructure that saved £1m per year.

The “vast majority” of the rise in the executive director’s salary was down to “incremental increases that the officer was entitled to as part of normal contract and normal, national conditions of service”, he explained.

“There was a relatively small uplift for additional responsibilities moved into her functional area, which included the entire housing portfolio at a time that was not long after the Grenfell Inquiry.

“So: substantial risks, substantial extra duties, substantial extra budget – and above all, there was over £1m saved to the authority per annum, and to local taxpayers.

“I am very comfortable with the decision that was taken and very pleased with the performance of that particular individual in carrying out her role ever since.”

When Community First raised concerns over pay hikes for town hall bosses in October last year, a council spokesperson branded the group’s claims “factually inaccurate” and “misleading” but did not explain the reasons behind the increases. The spokesperson added there had been “no breach of the council’s stringent pay policy”.

The pay policy states that additional one-off payments can be made to staff “in recognition of work undertaken in addition to that of their substantive role” and these must be authorised by the chief executive.

Also speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, Conservative councillor Edward Smith asked if members could be kept informed should any similar pay changes arise in future, “otherwise there is all sorts of nonsense talked about these sorts of things”.

Ian said he could update the committee about similar changes. Jeremy Chambers, the council’s director of law and governance, said he thought doing so would be “entirely appropriate”.

“I’m not sure we would have to amend the constitution. I think Ian is entitled to update this committee as he sees fit in any way,” Jeremy added.

Cllr Smith said he would me more than happy with that approach, as it would “avoid misunderstandings going forward”.

Council leader Nesil Caliskan also pledged to make sure there is “more active communication about structural changes in the workforce”.