Tower Hamlets Labour and Tory Councillors united in the last week of August and agreed to spend up to £200,000 a year employing an additional senior officer.
Why did Tower Hamlets Council have to appoint a Chief Executive? By law, Councils are required to have a “Head of Paid Service”, who takes on certain statutory functions.
These functions are often taken on by an officer called “chief executive” – but they do not have to be. In Tower Hamlets, the head of paid service functions have been taken on by various senior officers since the last Chief Executive left.
Lutfur Rahman’s Administration did not fill the post of Chief Executive: it moved the statutory responsibilities to other senior staff – and it saved the Council considerable sums of money in the process.
When Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, insisted that the Council should have a named Chief Executive, he was in effect making the Council take on an extra senior officer – and making local residents pay for it.
How much has this cost us? The new Chief Executive’s salary has not been formally released. However, in March 2015 alone, Lutfur Rahman’s Administration cut £200,000 from the Corporate Management Costs part of its budget as a saving made from not having a Chief Executive.
In July this year, John Bigg’s Cabinet reversed that saving so it could fund the new post. The report before the Council meeting which made the appointment referred to the salary being “up to” £191,543.
Less than a month before, the Commissioners had turned 237 community organisations away, refusing them Council funding because there wasn’t enough money to go round.
By the end of the month, the Council had been forced to spend just under £200 on an extra senior manager. Those disappointed community organisations could have had just under £1,000 each, if the Council had carried on as before.
While children go without supplementary teaching, while isolated individuals go without community support, while residents go without sports clubs… a new manager will be funded instead. Is it worth it?
At least Tower Hamlets is getting a good deal compared with Bexley. Will Tuckley’s salary as Chief Executive of Bexley was featured in a 2013 article in the Evening Standard on high salaries in local government. Mr Tuckley was in fourth place of the Tory boroughs with a quoted salary of £244,897 (more than the Prime Minister) even back then.
Research done by the Taxpayers Alliance revealed that Mr Tuckley received £250,627 in 2009/10 (including an extra payment for election duties), which made him the third highest earner in London’s local authorities – and the sixth highest in the country.
Mr Tuckley is, therefore, taking a pay cut to come and work in Tower Hamlets – a point which John Biggs stressed at the Council meeting. By taking a pay cut, at least Mr Tuckley will be mucking in with other council workers, whose pay increases have been held to below-inflation levels since the Coalition Government was formed in 2010.
Average pay for a local government housing officer is £24,115 (according to Pay Scale). In other words, it would take a Council housing officer ten years to earn what Mr Tuckley earned in one year in Bexley; but now he has taken his pay cut it may only take them eight years to accumulate his new annual salary.
Tower Hamlets Labour Councillors are not the only ones pleased by Mr Tuckley’s move. Alan Deadman, Labour Group Leader in Bexley Council, told the newshopper website that that Tuckley’s departure gave them, a great opportunity to finish remodelling Bexley’s senior management team, fulfil Labour’s election pledge of not replacing the Chief Executive, and get better value for the taxpayer.
In other words, as Labour works with the Tories, locally and nationally, to fund an extra senior manager in Tower Hamlets, Labour in Bexley made an election pledge to do without a formal Chief Executive and save money.