Council workers on £50,000 a year

NEARLY 1,000 employees of councils in Comet country are earning over £50,000 a year. The figure covers both Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire County Councils as well as North Hertfordshire (NHDC) and Mid Beds district councils and Stevenage Borough Council d

NEARLY 1,000 employees of councils in Comet country are earning over £50,000 a year.

The figure covers both Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire County Councils as well as North Hertfordshire (NHDC) and Mid Beds district councils and Stevenage Borough Council during the financial year 2006-07 and was revealed by the Taxpayers' Alliance.

The Alliance is an organisation which was launched in 2004 to represent taxpayers and fight for lower taxes.

Last week it criticised councils across the country by saying that while, in the economy as a whole, the number of people earning more than £50,000 has trebled over the past 10 years, the average local authority is employing nine times as many people on £50,000-plus packages compared to 10 years ago.

In Comet country, Hertfordshire County Council has the most £50,000-plus earners with 647 people, a number which places the council third of all councils across the UK just behind Kent (713) and top council Birmingham (823).

The total cost of the wages of Hertfordshire's £50,000-plus employees is £39,785,000, an increase from just £1,035,000 10 years ago when the council had just 17 people earning over £50,000.

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The Taxpayers' Alliance says the cost per Hertfordshire resident (of which there were 1,058,600 in mid-2006) is now £37.58 each.

Bedfordshire County Council last year had 236 employees earning over £50,000, Mid Beds Council had 19, North Hertfordshire 15 and Stevenage 13.

Matthew Elliott, the chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "With council tax doubling in the past decade, it's extremely disappointing that town halls have chosen to hire a new class of middle managers, many of whom are being paid more than MPs."

A spokesman for Hertfordshire County Council said: "It's important to put these figures in context, as the Taxpayers' Alliance is not comparing like with like.

"Hertfordshire County Council employs 32,000 people and is being compared to some councils employing as few as 500 people.

"The 647 figure includes school heads and heads of departments and represents just two per cent of our workforce.

"The high cost of living in Hertfordshire means we have to pay competitive rates to recruit and retain the best people, especially given our proximity to London."

Bedfordshire County Council's cabinet member for customer services, John Street, said: "Council services, particularly at county level, have evolved beyond all recognition over the last 10 years.

"Our position outside the top 25 of councils reflects the fact that in Bedfordshire we have struck a reasonable balance between delivering good services and trying to keep wage costs from spiralling."

A spokesman for Mid Beds District Council said the council continues to give value for money, adding "The cost per person in Mid Beds of employing staff on salaries of £50,000-plus is the lowest in Bedfordshire at under £9 and falls below the cost of Stevenage at £11.66 and just above North Herts of £7.86."

The strategic director of Stevenage Borough Council, Scott Crudgington, said: "We have to pay competitive salaries in order to attract quality staff, while at the same time obtaining the best value for council tax payers.

"People are at the heart of our success and only by investing in our workforce and the community can we achieve a successful town."

Councillor F John Smith, the leader of NHDC, said: "NHDC figures are broadly in line with the increase experienced by the economy as a whole, which it states as a three times increase over the past 10 years, making our experience entirely reasonable.

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