UNION bosses have hit out at the salary rise saying it is “morally indefensible”.
UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector union, believe the £10,000 rise in chief executive Paul Walker’s salary is unfair in a climate of job losses and cuts.
Mike Hill, regional organiser for UNISON, said: “Like the majority of workers in local government there is no reason why the pay of chief executives cannot be better measured and regulated across the board.
“However, leaving that aside, the fact that almost 90 people in Hartlepool are still at risk of compulsory redundancy and the fact that a pay freeze is in place this year for council staff means that this kind of pay rise at the very top is morally indefensible.”
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said: “I think there is a lot of concern about senior salaries not just in the private sector but also in the public sector.
“At a time when there are a number of low paid workers losing their jobs, I would always urge restraint for people that are on significant sums of money.
“That is true of Hartlepool Borough Council and across the whole of the public sector.
“There will be a lot of anger from people who are struggling to pay the bills, or for fuel to get to work, and they will see that increase and will feel a sense of unfairness.”
The leader of the Labour group, Councillor Chris Simmons, said people have a right to see how public money is being spent but said he didn’t believe it was right to have a public debate about an individual’s terms and conditions.
He added that the council had made a real effort in recent years to reduce the number of senior officers.
Coun Simmons added: “I think it is right that anybody who is due a pay review goes through that process if their responsibilities justify it.
“We live in a time where everybody is tightening their belts and we all feel some responsibility but it is down to the individual to make that decision as to whether to accept a pay rise.”
Conservative councillor Ray Wells said: “I am extremely concerned to learn of the increase which did not come to full council but was dealt with by cabinet and cabinet alone.
“I would question the wisdom and the message that it sends out to pay an increase to senior officers’ salaries at a time when we are cutting services, reducing salaries and making council employees redundant.”
He added that the Conservative group had not had a say in the rise as there is no representation on the cabinet committee.
Councillor Arthur Preece, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “This has been done without the approval of the council as a whole.
“I think it is excessive. I don’t think that you can justify having the chief executive of Hartlepool Borough Council being paid more than the Prime Minister.
“I have taken that view for quite a long time. We are not alone but my view is that the top salaries have become to high.”