Our latest research, the 16th edition of the Town Hall Rich List, reveals the top bureaucrats who have received hundreds of millions of pounds from council taxpayers.
Here are 10 things you need to know about Town Hall Rich List 2023:
We have a pretty tried and tested way of getting the numbers, despite attempts every year to dispute them. Every council is required by law to publish accounts detailing remuneration of all employees earning over £50,000 with various additional requirements for employees earning over £100,000 and £150,000. For England and Wales the council must publish the job title of anyone earning in excess of £100,000 and for those earning in excess of £150,000 their name must also be disclosed. For the purposes of THRL, all employees earning over £100,000 are included regardless of how the council chooses to disclose them (many are found in ‘Pay Band’ tables rather than the senior officer tables). We simply pull them out and add them up!
The number of officials earning over £100,000 has increased almost five fold since THRL was first published. In 2007 when the first THRL was published, 578 council officials earned above £100,000. In 2023 that figure sat at 2,759. Similarly the number earning over £150,000 has increased tenfold. In 2007, there were 64 council employees earning over £150,000. For 2023, that number has risen to 718.
165 council employees took home a base salary greater than the Prime Minister. It’s not a comparison we really like to make, but the media often compare our findings to the prime minister’s salary. PM Rishi Sunak is entitled to a base salary of £164,951. A staggering 165 council employees earned more than this in salary alone. When other costs (excluding pension contributions) are added, this number rises to 188.
A record of 47 councils (11.8 per cent) failed to publish their accounts. The deadline for the publication of draft accounts was the 31st July 2022 (and audited accounts for 30th November 2022). By 11th April 2023, over 8 months after the July deadline, 47 councils had not even published their draft accounts. While many councils have pointed to covid as an excuse, the number of councils failing to report their accounts in time for THRL 2022 and 2021 was 25 and 8 respectively (when the pandemic was far more of an issue!). This is the main reason why the headline numbers fell from this year. We believe that if all councils had published their accounts the real figure would well exceed 3,000.
Westminster tops the list again. Westminster Council had the most employees earning over £100,000 in 2022 at 44. In 2023 the amount of employees included in our list has hit 50. It is worth noting that this is most probably due to employees moving into the higher earning bracket this year rather than new hirings. Importantly, Westminster also has one of the best records on council tax in the country. Maybe the two are related, and paying more really does benefit local taxpayers?
Guildford with the highest remunerated employee. The managing director of Guildford borough council has topped the THRL 2023, costing the taxpayer a grand total of £607,633. Of this total just £107,195 was the salary. The bulk of the figure came from a ‘golden goodbye’ termination payment of £154,240 and an incredible £339,158 pension contribution (likely also as a result of the termination package). Pay outs of this size are supposed to be signed off by councillors.
Bristol with the highest base salary earner. The interim director of homes and landlord services (named in the council's remuneration report as D Graham) took home a salary of £280,634. Last year's top salary earner, Hillingdon council's Chief Executive F Beasly, has dropped to number two for this year with a base salary of £263,102.
There were 5 councils with no employees in excess of £100,000. These councils are Forest of Dean, Gosport, North East Derbyshire, Pendle and West Oxfordshire. Of these only Forest of Dean and Pendle are not in any type of shared management agreement and the other three are part of such an agreement in which they are partly responsible for an employee of another council earning over £100,000.
While these pay packets are being handed out, council tax is going up. Virtually every council in the country is raising council tax (with a few notable exceptions like Harlow), often by the maximum of 4.99 per cent. When we are travelling around the country talking to residents about council tax, this is often the first thing that comes up: why are the bosses paid so much when my bills are always going up?
Residents and councillors should ask questions about bumper pay packets. We publish the Town Hall Rich List so everyone knows exactly what kind of amounts senior staff are getting. The information is in the public domain, but for the layman it's too tricky to find, and councillors themselves rarely have the bottle to confront their officers about it. Now there’s no excuse. Unleash the armchair auditors!