This post was originally published on this site
Earlier this year I mentioned the council’s pay policy and the eye-watering levels of senior pay. Prior to the March meeting when this was discussed, a Labour councillor had raised the subject of chief officers pay in the Chamber. This unholy transgression resulted in a sour and outraged email from the chief executive, clearly irritated that the subject had been brought up and picked up by the press and the “wider community’; it was, he said, “entirely unwholesome and distasteful”.The council’s draft accounts have just been published and show an increase in the chief executive’s salary from £170,424 to a whopping £191,699. The difference, around £20,000, is for Returning Officer fees for the Local Elections held in May 2017. The figure does not include similar fees for the General Election which are paid direct by the government, not the council. Nor do they include other perks such as free use of publicly funded resources, facilities and staff time for his own private and personal use. (Nor does it include, of course, the £2000 a year from me..).

To put this into some real-world perspective, £20,000 equates to what would be considered a decent annual wage in Carmarthenshire, and in fact the median annual pay for all council employees works out at around £21,000.

Labour have been quiet on the subject but a few years back Plaid Cymru, largely initiated by former AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas, called for the end of these additional fees, unsuccessfully it turned out, but in January 2015 stated a clear Plaid policy on the subject;

“Plaid Cymru believes there should be no additional fees paid to Council senior officers for undertaking Returning Officer duties at election time. Swansea Council does not pay their chief executive a penny to undertake election duties, and we do not see why others should pocket up to tens of thousands of pounds in addition to their very well paid jobs.”

I’m not sure what’s happened to this policy in ‘Plaid-run’ Carmarthenshire, presumably Emlyn Dole hasn’t found the courage to broach the subject with Mr James…though given the latter’s preoccupation with his own wallet it’s fairly clear how he would react to such an impertinent suggestion…

From the accounts we also learn that the Director of Communities and deputy chief executive Jake Morgan comes in at a not-very-close second on £156,000. This figure includes pension contributions of £20,000. Mr James has not been part of the pension scheme since the tax avoiding arrangement was exposed back in 2014. Neither the pension cash, nor the unlawful libel costs have ever been repaid.

Other figures in the accounts show £2.8m paid out in exit packages which includes £687,738 for just six members of senior staff. Altogether, in the past two years, nearly a million pounds has been paid out in exit packages for eight members of the top brass.
The total pay for the 74 councillors comes to £1.23m, plus expenses, which this year have jumped from £42,702 to £50,554.

A Labour motion to marginally reduce £123,000 per year salaries for two new director posts was defeated late last year by Plaid and the Independents, helped along, incidentally, by an entirely unwholesome and distasteful intervention by the chief executive… However, at Cardiff Council, in 2015, a Plaid Cymru motion to slash chief executive pay from £170k to £100k was defeated by Labour.

With the current stalemate over excessive senior pay, what about tackling those Returning Officer fees? At £20,000 a throw, it’s time to revisit the issue.