My response to the leader of Hull City Council

March 21, 2011 8:15 AM

The publication of our annual "Town Hall Rich List" always manages to ruffle a few feathers. Matthew Sinclair wrote about this last Thursday, and I was accused of presenting misleading information too. I always find this amusing, as the figures we quote come directly from councils' accounts and from Freedom of Information requests. Are some councils trying to say their own figures are misleading and incorrect? Or is perhaps they don't want their electorate (bearing in mind many councillors are seeking re-election in May) to know the truth?

Last Thursday, I was interviewed on BBC Radio Humberside. All four councils in the Radio Humberside area declined to come on air and make their case, although North Lincolnshire Council did make a statement accusing us of 'tarring all councils with the same brush.' Once again, all we have to go on is the information publicly available in North Lincolnshire Council's accounts, and the information they give us through the Freedom of Information Act. This is something I reminded listeners of.

As a result of my interview, the leader of Hull City Council, Carl Minns, decided he was going to take to the airwaves and attempt to rebut by complaints. As I have not been given the opportunity to publicly answer the points he made, I will do so here. I did have a meeting with Cllr Minns later in the day, and cleared up some points, although - naturally - the public is not aware of this, and have been left with the impression what he said on air was correct. Here are a few points he raised listed in bullet points, with my reply beneath each one.

  • The TPA has double counted posts and called redundancy payments a pay rise.


Not true. We included all those people with incomes above £100K a year (including pension contributions). Yes, if some posts were vacated and filled by someone else mid-year, it is possible for a job to be counted twice. The important thing to remember is two different people who were doing that job each received remuneration above £100K. We also did not call redundancy payments a 'pay rise'. We made it clear this was remuneration. After the £364K payment to Sue Lockwood in the East Riding of Yorkshire Council last year, it is important we know how much of our money is paid to individual officers.

  • In all fairness to the TaxPayers' Alliance, they do put that information (regarding redundancy payments) in the small print, but it wasn't said on the show today, and it won't be said by the national TaxPayers' Alliance.


Again, not true. There isn't any small print. It is displayed in the same font size and all the information can be read easily in the same column. We are not trying to hide anything.

  • Andrew has been on this show and congratulated the council for cutting the wage bill and the number of senior posts


This is true and I made that point during the interview. My criticism of the council was that some of those senior employees still in post were receiving pay rises.

  • Andrew Allison says it's in the accounts. I urge every listener to go to the council website - hullcc.gov.uk. This information is publicly available.


Cllr Minns should have checked his own council's website before he went on air. If he had he would have found pay rises for the Chief Executive of (the now defunct) Hull Forward, the Director of Building Schools for the Future, the Head of Finance, amongst others. (This information can be found on pages 32-33 using this link). Yes, there has been much restructuring done, and this has brought down the overall cost of senior pay, but while lower paid workers have not seen their pay increase, some (not all) senior officers have seen their pay increase. As I said in the interview, how can anyone say to the public we are going to cut your services; say to their staff you're not going to get a pay rise, and at the same time  get a pay rise themselves?

  • The pension scheme is decided nationally.


While this is true, it is also true that Hull City Council pays around 25% in employer pension contributions, with the East Riding Council paying just over half of that figure, with all money being invested in the East Riding Pension Scheme. Hull taxpayers are paying hundreds of millions of pounds more than their East Riding counterparts mainly due to Hull City Council approving unaffordable early retirements in the past. One of the arguments of such a generous pension scheme in the public sector is public servants are paid less than their private sector counterparts. Then we hear that senior council officers should be paid high salaries to stop them joining the private sector. Like millions of people, I fund my pension through my own income. No-one tops-up my pension to the tune of thousands of pounds a year. This is a benefit that must be included when arriving at a figure for total remuneration.

It's a pity Cllr Minns decided not to debate with me live on air. If he had done, we could have cleared up all the points he raised, however I find none of our local politicians are willing to come into the studio with me. Instead they get interviewed separately, or hide behind press releases. When councils do the right thing, or attempt to do the right thing, I will support them; as I have done on previous occasions, but when services are being cut, and some senior officers still receive pay rises and bonuses, the TPA will not remain silent.The publication of our annual "Town Hall Rich List" always manages to ruffle a few feathers. Matthew Sinclair wrote about this last Thursday, and I was accused of presenting misleading information too. I always find this amusing, as the figures we quote come directly from councils' accounts and from Freedom of Information requests. Are some councils trying to say their own figures are misleading and incorrect? Or is perhaps they don't want their electorate (bearing in mind many councillors are seeking re-election in May) to know the truth?

Last Thursday, I was interviewed on BBC Radio Humberside. All four councils in the Radio Humberside area declined to come on air and make their case, although North Lincolnshire Council did make a statement accusing us of 'tarring all councils with the same brush.' Once again, all we have to go on is the information publicly available in North Lincolnshire Council's accounts, and the information they give us through the Freedom of Information Act. This is something I reminded listeners of.

As a result of my interview, the leader of Hull City Council, Carl Minns, decided he was going to take to the airwaves and attempt to rebut by complaints. As I have not been given the opportunity to publicly answer the points he made, I will do so here. I did have a meeting with Cllr Minns later in the day, and cleared up some points, although - naturally - the public is not aware of this, and have been left with the impression what he said on air was correct. Here are a few points he raised listed in bullet points, with my reply beneath each one.

  • The TPA has double counted posts and called redundancy payments a pay rise.


Not true. We included all those people with incomes above £100K a year (including pension contributions). Yes, if some posts were vacated and filled by someone else mid-year, it is possible for a job to be counted twice. The important thing to remember is two different people who were doing that job each received remuneration above £100K. We also did not call redundancy payments a 'pay rise'. We made it clear this was remuneration. After the £364K payment to Sue Lockwood in the East Riding of Yorkshire Council last year, it is important we know how much of our money is paid to individual officers.

  • In all fairness to the TaxPayers' Alliance, they do put that information (regarding redundancy payments) in the small print, but it wasn't said on the show today, and it won't be said by the national TaxPayers' Alliance.


Again, not true. There isn't any small print. It is displayed in the same font size and all the information can be read easily in the same column. We are not trying to hide anything.

  • Andrew has been on this show and congratulated the council for cutting the wage bill and the number of senior posts


This is true and I made that point during the interview. My criticism of the council was that some of those senior employees still in post were receiving pay rises.

  • Andrew Allison says it's in the accounts. I urge every listener to go to the council website - hullcc.gov.uk. This information is publicly available.


Cllr Minns should have checked his own council's website before he went on air. If he had he would have found pay rises for the Chief Executive of (the now defunct) Hull Forward, the Director of Building Schools for the Future, the Head of Finance, amongst others. (This information can be found on pages 32-33 using this link). Yes, there has been much restructuring done, and this has brought down the overall cost of senior pay, but while lower paid workers have not seen their pay increase, some (not all) senior officers have seen their pay increase. As I said in the interview, how can anyone say to the public we are going to cut your services; say to their staff you're not going to get a pay rise, and at the same time  get a pay rise themselves?

  • The pension scheme is decided nationally.


While this is true, it is also true that Hull City Council pays around 25% in employer pension contributions, with the East Riding Council paying just over half of that figure, with all money being invested in the East Riding Pension Scheme. Hull taxpayers are paying hundreds of millions of pounds more than their East Riding counterparts mainly due to Hull City Council approving unaffordable early retirements in the past. One of the arguments of such a generous pension scheme in the public sector is public servants are paid less than their private sector counterparts. Then we hear that senior council officers should be paid high salaries to stop them joining the private sector. Like millions of people, I fund my pension through my own income. No-one tops-up my pension to the tune of thousands of pounds a year. This is a benefit that must be included when arriving at a figure for total remuneration.

It's a pity Cllr Minns decided not to debate with me live on air. If he had done, we could have cleared up all the points he raised, however I find none of our local politicians are willing to come into the studio with me. Instead they get interviewed separately, or hide behind press releases. When councils do the right thing, or attempt to do the right thing, I will support them; as I have done on previous occasions, but when services are being cut, and some senior officers still receive pay rises and bonuses, the TPA will not remain silent.

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