THE top salary range for a senior role on Wrexham Council has been increased to more than £100,000 in a decision taken behind closed doors.

The local authority has recently been recruiting for a chief officer to oversee its crisis-hit education department following a damning review.

Inspection watchdog Estyn raised “significant concern” around performance in the county borough’s secondary schools in December, including poor attendance and high exclusion rates.

On the eve of the report, current education chief Ian Roberts announced his intention to step down this summer, with his successor Karen Evans set to move over from a similar role at Denbighshire Council next month.

The Leader:

Wrexham Council's chief executive Ian Bancroft

It has now been revealed that the council’s chief executive Ian Bancroft used emergency powers to boost the top rate payable for the role from £96,900 to £100,980 – a rise of more than four per cent.

In a report, which was originally kept private as the authority deemed there was no “overwhelming public interest”, Mr Bancroft said the decision had been taken to ensure the “high calibre candidate” accepted the role.

In the document, which has been put into the public domain ahead of a full council meeting this week, he said: “The current post-holder will retire on 31 August, and it is essential that the new chief officer education and early intervention takes up post in September 2020 to lead the improvement work required by the regulator Estyn to address the identified weaknesses in secondary education as set out in the improvement plan drawn up in December 2019.

“This service area is a risk for the authority and the improvement plan requires leadership to deliver the change required.

The Leader:

Ian Roberts, Wrexham Council's chief officer for education and early intervention

“The Pay and Reward Panel is responsible for making recommendations to the council in respect of senior pay and met on 25 February and again on the 12 March to consider the 2020/2021 review of senior pay – this included the chief executive and chief officer pay levels.

“The panel’s recommendations to council were scheduled for consideration at the council meeting on 25 March. The council meeting was cancelled due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

“The panel’s recommendation included approval of criteria which would enable two additional increments to be added to the top of the existing chief officer salary range, only to be invoked through a formal approval process when certain exceptional conditions are applied.

He added: “The recruitment process has now been concluded and the chief executive considers that the selected candidate is exceptional within the criteria recommended by the Pay and Reward Panel and wishes to have the flexibility to offer the post at the additional pay grades in order to secure the acceptance of the post by the selected candidate.

“Consultation has taken place with the current chief officers; their feedback was provided to the Pay and Reward Panel indicating that they had no objections.”

Council leader Mark Pritchard and his deputy David A Bithell signed off on the decision and lead member for education, Cllr Phil Wynn was also consulted.

Mr Bancroft said the additional cost will be taken from the service’s cash limited budget.

It forms part of a wider review of pay scales which councillors will be asked to approve at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, July 8.

A report shows the additional rates will only be invoked through a formal process when “exceptional conditions are met”.

The reasons include addressing challenges with recruitment and retention for chief officer roles which attract heavy scrutiny.

The panel has not recommended any changes in relation to the chief executive’s pay.