Row over council officers’ pay

Enfield Civic Centre

Report by Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A row has broken out over pay increases for senior officers at Enfield Council as the local authority comes under increasing financial pressure.

Members of opposition group Community First criticised pay hikes that saw one top executive take nearly £200,000 in salary and pension contributions – a 19% increase year-on-year.

The pay increases are set out in the council’s draft statement of accounts for 2019/20. The document reveals one executive director took home £199,795 in taxable pay and pension contributions – up from £168,317 the previous year. It also appears to show three senior officers received performance-related pay packets – even though the council abolished the policy in July 2018, the opposition group said.

Community First – a group of four councillors who quit the Labour Party earlier this year – highlighted officers received “generous” pension contributions of £26,910 and £13,438. The opposition group claimed the two pay packets breached council pay policy – although salary is normally considered separately from pension contributions.

Community First also claimed there was a failure to provide details of the job titles and list of responsibilities of those staff earning in excess of £50,000, as required by the Local Government Transparency Code, but the council pointed out this information was available on its website.

Councillor Daniel Anderson said: “At a time when the council is making major cuts to key services, pleading poverty, and looking at likely increases in council tax, it is utterly unacceptable that the council is paying senior officers eye-watering salaries.”

Fellow Community First councillor Dino Lemonides added: “One has to ask why [cabinet member for finance] Cllr [Mary] Maguire has allowed these mouthwatering sums to be paid out in such a cavalier manner. It’s a total disgrace,”

An Enfield Council spokesperson hit back at the comments, denying the authority had breached pay policy and saying some of the opposition group’s statements were “factually inaccurate” and “misleading”.

The spokesperson said: “Since 2017, Enfield Council has cut its senior management team and costs by a third (£1million), at a time of unprecedented pressures and demands on local government. The council now has one of smallest senior management teams in London in relation to the size and complexity of the borough.

“The council has a robust incremental pay structure in place and does not set basic percentage pay increases, which are negotiated for senior officers through the National Joint Council. There has been no breach of the council’s stringent pay policy.

“Furthermore, if council officers opt into the pension scheme, the amount payable by the council as an employer’s contribution is calculated once every three years by the fund’s actuaries and approved by the pension policy and investment committee.

“At a time when all officers are pulling together to help protect the community, as well as continuing to deliver services residents rely on despite increasing pressures and reducing resources, such a misleading and inaccurate attack by experienced councillors is extremely disappointing.”

Council leader Nesil Caliskan also accused Community First of showing “disdain” towards “hardworking officers” and claimed the group’s press statement was “littered with inaccurate information”.