Council bosses slammed over ‘bonus’ pay

Gavin Whitefield
Gavin Whitefield

Council bosses have been accused of awarding themselves £2m in bonuses while low-paid staff were being short-changed.

The council’s response to a Freedom of Information Act request shows that between 2003/04 and 2014/2015 senior officials were given just under £2m on top of their salaries.

In 2013/2014 Chief Executive Gavin Whitefield earned over £136,500 with an additional payment of £11,000 in performance related pay - totalling more than Prime Minister David Cameron’s £142,000 salary.

Mark Irvine, of Action4Equality Scotland which is pursuing pay claims on behalf of low-paid council workers, said: “2006/07 was a ‘bumper’ year with £223,509 being paid in bonuses despite the fact that this was the same year in which North Lanarkshire implemented new local pay arrangements reinforcing the historical pay discrimination against female dominated council jobs.

“2013/14 was the year in which the chickens finally came home to roost and the council’s defence of its actions began to fall apart at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal, yet still its chief officials were paid a whopping £191,932 in bonuses for ‘good’ performance.

“Now I happen to think that the practice of paying these bonuses is a highly questionable use of public money. Because in any well-run organisation the leadership figures are required to show ‘selflessness’ and integrity’, yet these additional payments continued to be made while the rest of the council’s workforce had to put up with a policy of public sector pay restraint.”

Mr Irvine is also reviewing other information from the council and has contacted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about the pay practices at NLC.

However North Lanarkshire Council firmly denies that the monies being discussed are bonus payments.

A spokesman said: “To refer to the former performance related pay scheme as a bonus is simply wrong and any attempt to portray the scheme as a bonus is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. When this scheme was in operation, chief officers’ salaries were reduced at the start of the year with the opportunity to earn back the reduction based on specific and very challenging performance targets.

“Effectively this meant that chief officers had a reduction in salary compared to their peers in other local authorities. The scheme came to an end last year.”

As far as the equal pay issues go the council has already paid out £36m in settling more than 6,500 claims but is currently dealing with “second wave” applicants. There is currently a disagreement over the amount of interest that is payable on these settlements which is being discussed by a tribunal.

Trade unions have expressed anger at the length of time this process has been taking, and called for members to stage protests at councillors’ surgeries.

June Murray, the council’s Executive Director of Corporate Services, recently insisted that negotiations are still ongoing and advised against taking part in the boycott due to council representatives having no involvement in the talks.

Although councillors agreed to the opening of negotiations the actual talks are being led by lawyers. Councillors will be asked to agree on any proposed settlement.