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John Leech

Lib Dem councillor slams "stomach turning 5% council tax hike to fund salary increases for town hall bosses"

  • Manchester Council's budget plans have been published
  • Nearly half a million has been carved out for more salary increases for senior bosses, claims Top Lib Dem
  • According to the Manchester Liberal Democrats, council tax is to go up by the maximum 5%

Details of Manchester City Council's budget for the next three years have been published, being branded "stomach-turning" by one of the town hall's own members.

Despite the Labour Council claiming it faced "savage cuts" from the Tory Government, it has still managed to find enough spare to increase senior bosses' salaries by a staggering £450,000.

The Council is proposing to increase council tax by 5% in order to raise £17.3 million. For a property in Band D, this means an increase of £178 between now and 2020.

In August 2016, plans to rush through enormous pay rises of up to 60% for senior council staff were slammed as “frankly disgusting” by the council's sole opposition councillor, Liberal Democrat John Leech.

Despite the fierce opposition from the Lib Dem councillor, the salary increases were approved late last year.

Mr Leech has accused the council of underhand tactics when it was discovered that the review of salaries was happening after the salaries had already increased.

The Council had recently announced that "the results of a review of senior officer salaries at Manchester City Council, which will save almost £250,000 over three years, will be reported to its Personnel Committee on Monday 12 December."

What isn't mentioned, but can has been found hidden deep within the report handed to the Personnel Committee, consisting entirely of executive council members, is that the additional cost of council executive pay increases over the next three years will total nearly half a million pounds.

The council claims that "reorganising" and "streamlining" senior council roles will save over £700,000. However, when taking into the account the extra £456,000 being splashed out to senior management, beginning this year, the saving drops to £250,000.

Labour Councillor John Flanagan, Executive Member for Finance and HR, has defended the decision saying: "The Council’s most senior officers are responsible for overseeing multi-million pound budgets and shaping the future of the city and its services.

“We recognise that this is always going to be a contentious area but in these challenging times we need to be able to attract and retain the most talented officers by paying them salaries comparable with those of other equivalent roles. Failure to do so would not be in the best interests of the city and its people."

John Leech is the only councillor so far to speak out against the rise. The NQ is waiting on responses from other councillors.

The former Liberal Democrat MP has slammed the council, describing them as “utterly shameless" and sarcastically praising them for their "incredible ability to find pockets of money for vanity projects and endless salary increases."

Mr Leech continued: "These stomach-turning salary increases are completely indefensible but not entirely surprising for a council that claims poverty and blames Government cuts every single time I suggest taking on vulnerable children from Syria who are at risk of death, abuse and trafficking or tackling the homeless crisis in Manchester.

“Whilst this council dishes out pay rises totalling nearly half a million pounds, there are men, women and children living on our streets. When will this council get its priorities straight?!”

120 of the council’s most senior staff will get an above inflationary pay rise with some having gone up by 60%, while others see their wage stagnate, or are let go. Incoming Chief Executive Joanne Roney, who is set to replace Howard Bernstein, will earn almost £200,000.

Councillor Flanagan continued to defend the increases promising that 'every single penny of the money raised' will be spent on services which people have told the council are important to them.

He added: "The proposed council tax increase as part of our budget proposals has nothing to do with salary charges."

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