A SPIRITED defence has been made of a controversial decision to increase pay scales for Wrexham Council’s chief executive and leading officers.
Cllr Hugh Jones, Pay an Review Panel chairman, issued a defiant statement at a meeting of the council’s executive board yesterday.
He insisted Dr Helen Paterson, Wrexham Council’s chief executive, had not been given a “pay rise”. It had simply been agreed the post’s salary would increase by one increment in 2015 and 2016, subject to performance.
He said the attempt to personalise the issue and focus solely on chief executive Dr Helen Paterson was a “cowardly act and wholly inappropriate”.
The agreed increase was less then recommended by independent expert advice, he said.
In December the panel recommended the council’s most senior officer would be able to earn between £109,000 and £125,000 in the future, where previously the pay scale was £105,000 to £117,500.
The move sparked accusations of double standards from critics, including Plaid Cymru North Wales AM Llyr Huws Gruffydd at a time when the bulk of council workers had their pay frozen.
Mr Gruffydd had also complained about the increase being decided by behind closed doors but Cllr Jones said there was nothing untoward about salary decisions being made in private.
“The principle that the discussions and negotiations surrounding pay and reward are dealt with in private applies not only to local government but to the private sector as well,” Cllr Jones said, adding: “Public sector employees are individuals. They are entitled to the same respect as we all are.”
He said the only difference was that senior officers’ salary, once decided, was published in the public domain as it was paid for by the taxpayer. The panel had been asked to look at the pay scales for three tiers of senior officers, Cllr Jones, a Rossett Conservative, said.
Pay for the role of chief executive was significantly below the going rate which “placed the council in a vulnerable position in terms of its ability to attract, motivate and retain any chief executive”.
The panel “scrupulously” followed criteria and took professional independent advice but, because of the economic climate, it decided to “step back” from bringing in the full pay scales suggested which would have made them comparable with roles elsewhere.
“What is regrettable is that members of this council have chosen to personalise this issue to the current post holder.
“This, together with the failure to look at the senior salary structure cost as a whole, is both mischievous and misleading.
“To seek to achieve short-term political gain using ill-conceived and inaccurate arguments does little or no justice to those involved.”
He said the increase amounted to less than 0.003 per cent of the council’s total expenditure or 5p per resident per year.