Exclusive: Snub for Pickles as council chiefs defy pay call

COUNCIL chief executives in the region have infuriated the Government by defying calls to take a five per cent pay cut. Only one top boss – Wakefield's Joanne Roney, who will take a five per cent cut in her £184,410 salary from April – has accepted Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles's plea to share the pain as town hall spending is slashed.

Mr Pickles stepped up the pressure to demand that chief executives should "lead from the front" as a Yorkshire Post survey, Power and Pay, found that top NHS bosses and a senior official at a nationalised bank have lowered salaries as spending cuts bite.

Power and Pay is a regional survey of salaries of key figures compiled annually by the Yorkshire Post and provides a snapshot of what people earn along with their responsibilities.

Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust chief Phil Morley, who took up his post three months ago, was initially offered between 185,000 and 190,000 a year, but said that was "too high" and accepted 170,000 a year.

Julia Squire, the chief executive of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, fell in pay bands from 195,000-200,000 in 2008-09 to 185,000-190,000 in 2009-10.

Meanwhile former Bradford & Bingley executive chairman Richard Pym has seen his taxpayer-funded salary come down from 350,000 to 250,000 after a reorganisation at B&B and Northern Rock Asset Management, the company overseeing the nationalised lender's mortgage book.

Several newly-appointed council chief executives accepted lower salaries when they took their job, but Mr Pickles, who describes top town hall pay as "ludicrous", wants those on more than 150,000 to take a five per cent cut.

"It's vital chief executives lead from the front and take a pay cut," he said. "If they do this councils can protect front-line services but for too long chief executive salaries have spiralled out of control."

The move is intended to help cut the costs of council administration and curb top levels of public sector pay, but also to act as a gesture when council services are cut. Nicola Yates is paid 160,000 at Hull City Council, significantly lower than her predecessor, and North Yorkshire also reduced the salary it was offering by about 35,000 to 155,000 when Richard Flinton took the job.

Leeds City Council also points out that chief executive Tom Riordan's salary was at the bottom end of the pay scale for the job – which ranged from 182,147 to 196,198 – when he took up his post earlier this year, significantly less than his predecessor.

However, according to Mr Pickles's criteria all three should still go further. Ultimately he wants chief executives to be paid no more than the Prime Minister, who currently collects 142,500.

Leeds City Council said any cut would be a "personal matter" for Mr Riordan, while North Yorkshire County Council said there are "no plans to make any further adjustment" to Mr Flinton's salary.

In a statement likely to irritate Mr Pickles, Bradford Council, whose chief executive Tony Reeves is paid 178,476, defended his salary and added "individual councils, not central Government, have the responsibility of recruiting their chief executives". Mr Reeves has had a three-year pay freeze.

But Sheffield City Council said it is ruling nothing out over John Mothersole's pay of 184,000.

The secretary of the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives, Mary Orton, said her members worked hard for their money and rejected comparisons with the Prime Minister's salary. She said any pay reductions would be "absolutely negligible" compared with cuts imposed on councils.

Ministers took a five per cent cut when the coalition took office, as did Labour leader Ed Miliband.