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Council workers' pay sparks fury

PUBLISHED: 09:19 23 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:21 06 July 2010

CAMPAIGNERS have reacted angrily to revelations that a growing number of council workers in Suffolk are taking home high salaries while more and more taxpayers head for the dole queue.

CAMPAIGNERS have reacted angrily to revelations that a growing number of council workers in Suffolk are taking home high salaries while more and more taxpayers head for the dole queue.

Figures show that the number of employees at Suffolk County Council who are paid above £50,000 has gone up by more than 60pc over the last two years.

However, Geoff Dobson, head of strategic finance at Suffolk County Council, said the council needed to offer competitive wages to ensure key services were delivered to the highest standard.

He added that the pay increases for all council staff were set nationally.

The news has led one group to brand the situation as “double standards” at a time when the private sector is feeling the full brunt of the recession.

Susie Squire, campaign manager for the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: “It is not acceptable for councils to keep pumping their employees' pay when taxpayers who foot the bill for these wages are themselves facing redundancies and pay cuts. It is fiddling while Rome burns.

“Many private sector companies have instigated pay freezes and the council should wake up to the reality and do the same.”

But Mr Dobson said it was essential to attract the best staff, many of whom work with the most vulnerable in society.

He added: “If we don't recruit and retain staff of this calibre, there is a real risk that services will deteriorate and people will suffer. That is not a risk that anyone would want us to take.

“The Audit Commission has judged Suffolk County Council to be a four-star authority, which is improving well and gives value for money. We are determined to maintain this high standard by developing and retaining our key personnel.”

The figures have been released in a statement of accounts ahead of a council sub-committee meeting, which is due to take place at the end of this month.

They reveal that 513 employees earned more than £50,000 in 2008/09 compared to 417 the year before and 318 in 2006/07.

In 2008/09, there 289 people working in schools earning above the £50,000 threshold compared to 224 elsewhere.

The data also shows that there was one person working in a school earning between £100,000 and £109,000 in that period, while there were two “non-school” workers receiving £120,000 to £129,000 and another taking home more than £200,000.

Miss Squire said: “These figures are very concerning. They are financially unsustainable and do not reflect the economic situation we find ourselves in.

“We are in a recession and people want their council to focus on providing good value public services.”

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