Confusion Remains Over Council Officer Bonuses

Council Chamber at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

Whether a handful of Council staff, including their most senior officers, keep a £4,500 discretionary salary boost is uncertain.

In a confused Council meeting, Councillors voted not to accept a written framework for assessing whether an employee gets the market factor forces supplement.

Richard McCarthy told members he was, “fed up to the back teeth of these lump sum payments” and he suggested abolishing them in April.

He quoted Council Chairman Mike Hicks who told Radio Scilly listeners in October that the extra payments would be axed.

Richard wanted the senior staff pay to be assessed like that of other Council staff, by the established job evaluation process.

But Policy and Resources Committee Chairman, Marian Bennett, stopped Councillor McCarthy from saying any more as she felt specific salary-boost payment amounts should not be publically discussed. She tried to steer members back onto the market factor policy report prepared by local government human resources expert, Russ Symons.

Symons’ blueprint outlines the terms and conditions for staff to qualify for the hugely controversial annual award.

His policy document recommended paying individuals in hard-to-fill roles a premium rate to reflect the market competitiveness of the job. A position could be considered eligible for extra salary if there was a poor response to job adverts, a high staff turnover in a role or employees elsewhere were getting more money for similar duties.

The supplements would be paid as a temporary allowance, which would be reviewed annually and could be withdrawn or reduced.

Staff could use the bonus figure when calculating their salary for mortgage applications and they would also be pensionable.

And that’s the sticking point for some members, because Russ Symons’ previous advice was that they would not attract pension rights.

Marian Bennett warned against Richard McCarthy’s comment that the original advice had been ‘flawed.’

Fred Ticehurst was unhappy that the issue of market factor supplements was still being challenged. He stated that a majority of councillors voted to accept the pay boost in what was a controversial and close-vote.

But Amanda Martin felt that, as the original information they voted on was now known to be inaccurate, the new framework couldn’t be accepted.

Both Julia Day and Christine Savill wanted to adopt the policy as a basis for future discussions and felt they could not move forward on further debate over the amounts of pay boost without accepting the framework.

But when it came to the vote, the guidelines were rejected by 5 votes to 4.

Some members had suggested continuing discussions in the private session of the meeting where the press and public are excluded.

Christine Savill warned that the Council couldn’t legally put policy discussions behind closed doors and Marian Bennett said she wanted to discuss the policy publically.

However, specific issues about the Chief Officers’ pay and how Finance Director, Peter Lawrence, will deal with the resignation of another key officer from his department were kept on the agenda for the confidential part of the meeting.

Members will again discuss the market factor supplement, in the full Council meeting in March.


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