Power and Pay: Battleground over chiefs' bumper public sector salaries

Power and Pay is an annual survey of salaries of key figures from the region. It is a snapshot of what people earn and their responsibilities.

PUBLIC sector salaries have been under attack since the coalition Government came into power in May, with the six-figure pay packets enjoyed by senior workers seen as unjustifiable at a time when budgets are getting squeezed and jobs are being lost.

The wages of council chief executives, top civil servants and NHS bosses soared under the previous government, with some across the country receiving bumper redundancy packages and then gaining public service jobs elsewhere.

But their association leaders have defended the sizeable wages of the region's taxpayer-funded managers, saying they represent excellent value for money compared with their private counterparts. They argued that with multi-million pound budgets to handle and life-affecting decisions to make, such sums were justified.

Local authority chiefs have had their salaries scrutinised ever since Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said all should take a pay cut to fall in line with David Cameron's pay of 142,500. Mr Pickles said those earning more than 200,000 a year should accept a 10 per cent reduction, while bosses on 150,000 or more should take five per cent less.

The MP's Localism Bill, published last month, announced that authorities must each year approve and publish at full council meetings a policy on senior pay, rather than have wages set by smaller remuneration committees. Any deviations would then need to be voted on by all council members.

But Mary Orton, Association of Local Authority Chief Executives' secretary, said that any comparisons with the Prime Minister's salary were unfair.

"The role of a chief executive is very different from the role of an elected Prime Minister," she said. "He doesn't have to compete in the employment market – it's not a real comparison. Councils are multi-million pound businesses and chief executives are responsible for several hundred council services – from organising for rubbish to be picked up to ensuring children are safe – as well as tens of thousands of staff members and residents."

Ms Orton, who as chief executive of Waverley Council in Surrey earns 109,000 a year, said people in the same roles at similar-sized private sector businesses would earn four or five times the amount.

She added: "It's the best job in the world and it can be completely life-consuming. You use a number of professional skills and experiences to make a difference to people's lives."

But a spokeswoman for public trade union Unison said its members worked just as hard and called for the jump in pay between higher-end workers and those lower down to close.

"The gap between these people at the top and those at the bottom has been growing steadily over the years but pay at the lower end needs to be brought up," she said. "You have situations where top people will take redundancy from one place and find another job in another part of the country straight away. It's costing taxpayers money and that is particularly galling at a time of cuts.

"Low-paid workers aren't going to get any increase in years and with the rate of inflation still going up families are struggling to pay mortgages and put food on the table."

The Yorkshire Post has found that MPs Ed Miliband and Rosie Winterton are both taking home less than they could for roles assumed last year. As Leader of the Opposition, the Doncaster North MP is entitled to 139,355 but has opted to receive 128,836. Opposition Chief Whip Ms Winterton is allowed a salary of 107,108 but she actually takes home 98,740.