Kate Nelson, Reporter
Friday, January 28, 2011
The top earner at a council has revealed to the Times just why he receives more than the Prime Minister and has refused to take a pay cut despite pressure from MPs.
Chief executive of Bromley council, Doug Patterson, said his £185,000 salary was justified because he ‘provides value for money’.
He is defying Minister for Communities and Local Government Bob Neill who urged senior council staff to ‘seriously consider’ a voluntary pay reduction and pleaded for ‘greater restraint’. Mr Neill said no new chief executive should earn more than the Prime Minister’s £142,000 wages.
It comes as the council has announced £40million cuts to its budget to be spread over the next four years, the majority of which will be in the Children and Young People’s department.
Grandfather-of-six Mr Patterson, 55, said: “I’m not taking a pay cut, no. There’s a pay freeze for all council staff from last year to this year. I’m one of the lower paid chief executives in London.
“I’m not against Bob Neill’s suggestion, he’s entitled to his opinion. Some chief executives earn over £200,000. It seems the plan has come from Bob Neill’s boss Eric Pickles who is quite vocal about chief executives.
“It’s an unfair comparison when people just focus on the Prime Minister’s salary. It seems a bit strange. It’s not a valid argument at all. I don’t have a free house. The Prime Minister has lots of other costs that are covered.”
Mr Patterson said he works around 50 hours per week.
It is a known fact the Prime Minister also has opportunity to continue earning vast sums once they leave office with memoirs and after dinner speaking to rack up the millions. This is not the case for most chief executives once they leave local authorities.
Last week the Times revealed the Volunteers in Child Protection scheme, which was so successful when piloted in Bromley that Children’s Minister Tim Loughton wanted it rolled out nationally, faces the chop under council budget plans.
If Mr Patterson took a £38,000 pay cut, which it costs to run the organisation for a year, he would still earn more than David Cameron.
Asked what he thought of that proposal, he said: “There are lots of issues that the councillors will have to wrestle with. I’m not saying this argument isn’t valid. But my deputy chief executive is taking early retirement and we are losing that post and I dare say my hours will increase because of it.”
According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, the average public sector salary is £28,808.
Meanwhile the average yearly earnings for chief executives in either the public or private sector came in at just under half of Mr Patterson’s wages at £96,202.
He added: “I control a large and complex organisation in a way that hopefully empowers staff to get on and deliver a good quality service to the community. The budget cuts are happening because we are getting less money from the Government. We’ve not been asked to provide less services. We have to save £27million in the next couple of years.”
The Hutton review, commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, into public sector fair pay is due to report back in March.
Mr Neill, also MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, said: “The salaries of local authority chief executives are for each local authority employer to determine in the light of local circumstances.
“However, with household budgets under increasing pressure, there is a need for greater restraint in senior pay awards. In view of this, my colleagues and I have called on the most senior local government officers to seriously consider a voluntary reduction in pay and we have also suggested that no new council chief executive should be paid more than the Prime Minister.
“In the longer term, greater local democratic accountability and transparency over senior remuneration arrangements and policies in local government will serve to provide effective downward pressure on excessive wage inflation.”
Mr Patterson has been chief executive of Bromley council for three and half years.