Bristol city councillors have awarded themselves a pay hike costing council tax payers an extra £180,000 a year while freezing the salaries of top officers.
The increases include £9,000 a year for mayor Marvin Rees, £5,500 for deputy mayors Craig Cheney and Asher Craig and £3,500 for the seven other cabinet members. The basic allowance for all 70 councillors also rose by about £1,000 from the current level of £12,000.
They were supposed to be delayed until after the local elections – originally scheduled for May but postponed by 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic – to give some “distance” between the councillors approving them and those receiving them.
But lord mayor Jos Clark confirmed at a full council meeting of Bristol City Council on Tuesday, March 17, that all the changes would come into force this coming May.
The rises for the deputy mayors and cabinet members were recommended by an independent remuneration panel and voted through unanimously at the meeting.
From start to finish, the entire item on the agenda took just 37 seconds, with no debate.
The two deputy mayors will be paid £39,946 a year from May, with cabinet members receiving £37,946. In total, the increases take the councillors’ wage bill from £1.28million to about £1.46million.
At a full council meeting last September, councillors voted in favour of the panel’s advice to increase the mayor of Bristol’s salary by 12.6%, from £70,605 to £79,468 to match that of an MP, which would have also come into force after the local elections.
Full council chairwoman Cllr Clark said at last Tuesday’s meeting: “Obviously the mayoral elections are no longer taking place, however the recommendations would come into force in May 2020.”
A report to members on senior officers’ pay said: “The current pay ranges for executive directors and directors continue to be competitive and it is proposed that they remain at the 2019/20 levels.”
It said national pay settlements for chief officers needed to be taken into account but that the outcome of the negotiations for 2020/21 was not yet known.
The report said the lowest-paid employees would receive £9.30 an hour – the foundation living wage, equal to £17,942 per year – from April 1. Wages for apprentices aged over 18 who work for the local authority would rise to this level, with under-18s receiving 80%, it said.
“Currently only 3.72 % of the workforce are aged 24 or under,” said the report.
“Using apprenticeships will help to ensure that we are developing the skills we need for the future, to grow our economy in ways that also support our city.
“The council will review all ‘hard to recruit’ roles and will consider options including job design, talent management and succession planning.
“We will also support further work on tackling the gender, disability and ethnicity pay gap – looking at progression, pay, recruitment and flexible working.
“All proposals will be subject to equality impact assessment and will be subject to consultation with trade unions.”
City Hall executive director salary bands are £135,000 to £165,000 while directors receive between £94,000 and £120,000.
It means that from April, the highest earners will receive 9.5 times that of the lowest, which narrows the gap slightly.
That ratio in the current financial year is 9.77:1, although the pay difference was smaller in the previous, with top earners receiving 8.34 times the lowest-paid staff.
In December 2012, the ratio was much greater, at 15.6.
A vote can now be held at full council before severance compensation over £100,000 is agreed for directors leaving the council.
The other seven cabinet members are Cllrs Nicola Beech, Kye Dudd, Helen Godwin, Helen Holland, Anna Keen, Steve Pearce and Paul Smith.
A council spokesperson said: “At this moment the energy and focus of the mayor, his cabinet and all officers is on responding to the major public health crisis that is developing in the city.
“While this crisis continues most low priority items of daily business will be put on hold and revisited at a later date.
“The most important thing to do right now is to ensure the city’s vulnerable residents are supported and we are doing what we can to slow the spread of this virus.”