12 years of Town Hall Rich Lists

By Jeremy Hutton, Policy Analyst

The TaxPayers’ Alliance released its first Town Hall Rich List in 2007. Since then we have published it 12 times covering 13 years up to the present. When we first compiled the Rich List the data was compiled via Freedom of Information requests. This garnered responses from 230 local authorities and showed that 578 council employees were receiving remuneration over £100,000. After keeping up the pressure on councils across the UK for several years, the government finally bowed to the pressure of the Town Hall Rich List and began forcing local authorities to publish remuneration reports of its senior employees.

This crucial rule change meant that in the 2012 Town Hall Rich List we were able to compile the most comprehensive rich list up to that point, including redundancy payments. This showed that over 3,000 council employees had received remuneration in excess of £100,000.

Relentless pressure ever since this peak has ensured it has not been repeated. Although some councils pay their senior employees an amount their constituents might think fair, there are still plenty of instances of taxpayers being taken for a ride.

Take for instance some of the highlights of the 2019 Town Hall Rich List, released this week. Often, shockingly high amounts of pay can be attributed to ‘golden handshakes’ when a senior employee retires or is made redundant. A notable example is the interim chief executive of Slough council who received £595,077. This is one of the highest remunerations ever shown in the 13 years we have published the Town Hall Rich List.

Maintaining this pressure year after year has now resulted in a major TPA policy victory: the government has now announced that public sector pay-outs to senior employees are to be limited to £95,000 in the future.

However, high remuneration cannot always be blamed on golden handshakes and we must remain vigilant. Take for example, the joint head of paid service of South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse councils, being paid £320,455 in salary alone in 2017-18.

The acting chief executive of Caerphilly council meanwhile charged £132,309 in expenses last year, and the former chief executive of Northumberland received the biggest compensation pay-out of the year in 2017-18 at £369,999.

Nor are instances of high pay always one-off cases. Essex county council for example pay 55 employees over £100,000, more than any other local authority. By contrast, the average amount of employees being paid over that amount is six per each council across the UK.

The above are just a few highlights of the Town Hall Rich List this year. These are in addition to more than 600 local authority employees who received more money than the Prime Minister in 2017-18. However hard their job may be, surely it isn’t harder than negotiating an exit from the European Union?

Regardless, the cap on golden handshakes is a great victory for the TPA that will save taxpayers millions of pounds in the future, but this is not the end of the road. We will continue to campaign tirelessly to ensure that British taxpayers always get the best deal.