What maps can tell us about local government executive pay

by Jacob Groet, Volunteer

Cartography is a marvellous thing. Not a sentiment you hear often, but one I have come to appreciate in the last week whilst I have been experimenting with the data from the Town Hall Rich List 2018 and 2019 and whilst taking part in the TPA’s ‘Rich List Roadshow’. The idea is that, as well as providing an easily digestible format for TaxPayer’s Alliance research, the maps should help us spot some interesting trends which don’t immediately jump out when looking at a spreadsheet.

The Town Hall Rich List produced regional totals of local government executives earning over £100,000 alongside the council-by-council data. This gives a clear indication of those areas of the country which have a high number of over-paid executives, and a way to track whether specific regions are improving or getting worse. Thanks to this data, we know that 8 of the 12 regions of the UK have seen an increase in their numbers from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

 

 

The use of mapping can enhance this by showing where within those regions the increases are concentrated. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to tarnish a whole region due to one wasteful city council. As well, these maps can help us locate trends which cross regions.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the above map showing the results of the Town Hall Rich List 2019. We can see a wall of councils stretching from Liverpool to Hull each paying between 6 and 19 staff members over £100,000- this trend continues south to Shropshire and Birmingham (Birmingham is a chief offender, with no less than 28 staff members paid over £100,000). Worse still is the comparison between the 2018 and 2019 maps side by side, where we can see a worsening of this trend (see Burnley, Bradford, Barnsley and the East Riding of Yorkshire).

However, London takes the crown for the strongest concentration of over-paid staff. Their figures are so bad we had to make the London maps colour lighter so you could actually see the differences between them. You can see from 2018 to 2019 that there has been a big increase in 6-figure staff. This is particularly damning considering that they are already some of the worst offenders in the 2018 report. At a time when London has a number of pressing problems, council leaders should have to justify such outlandish paycheques compared to the rest of the UK.

Perhaps this is simply a reflection of high London salaries? Perhaps, but look at the stark contrast with councils bordering London, where salaries would presumably also be high - why is there such a divide here? It would appear that there is something about being a London council that invites gravy-train salaries.

 

 

Scotland, whilst having reduced their number of 6-figure staff by 5% regionally from the 2018 to 2019 reports, continues to employ an alarming number of over-paid executives in councils from the West coast to the East; literally correlating with the Antonine Wall, built by the Romans in ancient times.

 

Clearly, a Roman wall isn’t the causal factor here. So what is? Observing these trends, it is possible to form a correlation with population density: the higher the number of people per mile square, the more 6-figure salaries the local council will employ. This is, of course, no justification for employing 27 staff over £100,000 (See North Lanarkshire, 2017-18), but it hints at the thought process of council leaders: ‘more tax revenue means more money for us’.

As the population continues to rise, this gravy-train mentality will only get worse if taxpayers do not demand better value for their money. So, feel free to use these maps to look up your local council and see how much of your council tax they’re wasting on bumper salaries. The more accountable they are, the more likely we can stop council tax bills going up, year upon year.

*Please note that since the release of the Town Hall Rich List 2019, the following authorities have now provided data: South Holland, Spelthorne, South Northamptonshire, Ryedale, Cherwell, Powys, West Oxfordshire, Eden, Forest of Dean, Gosport, Torridge, Burnley, Cotswold, Melton, Oadby and Wigston and Lisburn and Castlereagh. Additionally, that some county councils are excluded from the mapping as they would overlap and obscure local authorities within their boundaries. This data however can be found within the original Rich List data.