Row erupts over council chief’s pay and tax

Darryl Stephenson
Darryl Stephenson
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CALLS have been made for a chief executive earning £600-a-day “to be taxed in exactly the same way as any other council employee”.

Councillors meet behind closed doors next week to decide whether to extend a contract for Darryl Stephenson by a year.

Mr Stephenson headed Hull Council nearly two decades ago and came back to run the authority following the sudden departure of chief executive Nicola Yates in the summer from her £160,000-a-year job.

Minutes of a confidential meeting in July reveal that Mr Stephenson, “of Hardmoor Associates Ltd”, was appointed interim chief executive. Recent company returns show Mr Stephenson is a 0.05 per cent shareholder, with three other Stephensons listed as shareholders, and he is also a director.

Andrew Allison, co-ordinator of the Hull and East Riding Branch of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “This is all perfectly legal but I just think that if you are presiding over budget reductions at the council you should be paying PAYE like any other council employee.

“He’s currently minimising the tax he is paying by not being an employee of the council. If he’s going to continue in the employ of the council, he should be taxed in exactly the same way as any other employee.”

Hull Council said Mr Stephenson was set to become a council employee. A statement said: “The initial appointment of Darryl Stephenson as a consultant CEO was done, as is usual, through a consultancy firm. That has benefits to the council in that no pension or national insurance costs are incurred.

“If approved at the next full council meeting, Mr Stephenson’s extended appointment as chief executive would confirm him in post as a council employee.

“The consultancy firm’s management is not a matter for the council.”

Mr Stepheson, the former chief executive of East Riding Council, is on a month-by-month contract with a one-month notice period on either side.

Unison branch secretary Adrian Kennett said: “I think our members would be very concerned about him being paid through a company. I think it goes against the public service ethos.”

However another source said: “He’s not doing anything illegal and nor is the council.

“It’s our job to get the best value for the taxpayer and this arrangement does that. There’s an economic marketplace out there and we are getting him at a bargain price.”

And council leader Steve Brady said there had been cross party support over his appointment, adding: “I feel the case for extending his contract is gilt-edged. The contract that is being drawn up till November next year is based on him being an employee of Hull Council.”

In the past, Mr Stephenson’s salary has attracted criticism; 10 years ago 300 protestors took to the streets in Beverley to complain about 35 per cent pay increases awarded to 30 senior officers at East Riding Council.

Mr Stephenson, who got a £36,000 rise, bringing his salary to £140,000, attracted much of the criticism.

In 2010 the Yorkshire Post revealed moves to fund the early retirement of Mr Stephenson’s wife Sue Lockwood using more than £360,000 of taxpayers’ money.

The East Riding Council’s Tory cabinet went on to agree – bar one member – the payment of £364,205 to the pension fund of Ms Lockwood, who was then director of corporate resources.

Hull Council is half way through making £100m cuts and could axe up to 240 jobs in its business support section. About 1,000 jobs went last year.

One of Mr Stephenson’s tasks is to resolve “generous” terms and conditions for staff.

The administration wants to slash the £4m overtime bill, which sees workers get time-and-a-half on Saturdays and double time on Sundays, and its £2.3m car allowances bill.