In response to today's TaxPayers' Alliance report on the rocketing numbers of council staff earning more than £50,000 a year, London Councils - an apparently taxpayer funded PR group for London's councils - has attacked our numbers:
"This is a surprising move from the Taxpayers' Alliance at a time when councils across the capital are being forced to shed jobs to ensure that they can afford to provide the vital services relied on by thousands of vulnerable Londoners. Their inclusion of teachers' salaries in their summary of middle management pay is also misleading - central government sets these salaries and councils merely pay them."
Our numbers are taken from councils' annual accounts, which paint a very different picture. Just as the Government's statistics (PDF) show that the public sector as a whole is increasing employment while employment is falling in the private sector, the number of local government staff earning more than £50,000 rose by 22 per cent between 2006-07 and 2007-08.
Councils are obliged to report in their accounts the number of their staff earning more than £50,000 - in £10,000 bands - so that the public can hold them to account. At the TaxPayers' Alliance, we compile those numbers in order to aid transparency and highlight the rapid growth in the number of high-earning council staff. Many councils report the number of teachers and other council staff separately. When they do that, we report the number of non-teaching staff earning more than £50,000. Councils who blame us for the fact that they have lumped teaching and non-teaching staff in together are trying to make fools of their constituents.
We called London Councils to ask whether their concern at the lumping in together of teaching and non-teaching staff meant that they would be publishing a breakdown, so that people could get a more accurate picture. At the TaxPayers' Alliance, we'd definitely be happy to get more precise figures. Unfortunately, they haven't been very forthcoming so far. Until they provide a breakdown councils can have no complaints about the inclusion of teachers in our work on high-paid council staff.
Beyond that, those councils that did separate out teachers still saw big increases in the number of staff earning more than £50,000. While the numbers would go down a little, if teachers were separated out it is highly unlikely that we the results would change significantly. Councils have quite simply increased the number of staff they employ earning £50,000 or more massively. With council tax having doubled in the last ten years, charges for many services up drastically and other services cut, ordinary taxpayers should be very sceptical of claims that this big new cadre of high-earning local government workers have delivered good value for money.