Glasgow City Chambers | By Velvet | CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons |

Top salaries rise at Glasgow City Council despite cuts

Top earners at Glasgow City Council and the authority’s spin-off companies have seen their salaries rise significantly despite serious cuts to council budgets, the Ferret can reveal.

The number of Glasgow City Council employees earning £60,000 or more rose from 85 earning collectively £6,829,763 in 2013/14, to 91 taking home £7,473,187 in 2015/16, according to figures released to The Ferret under Freedom of Information law.

Annemarie O’Donnell, Glasgow City council chief, had a total remuneration of £180,894 in 2015/16, up from £166,335 the previous year, according to Glasgow City Council’s annual accounts.

Total remuneration for Glasgow City council’s senior employees rose from £1,068,109 in 2014/15 to £1,146,118 last year.

Five other staff on the Labour-controlled council – Scotland’s largest local authority – earned over one quarter of a million pounds including heads of the financial, corporate, education, and land and environmental services.

In response to The Ferret’s findings, the Scottish Conservatives called the pay rises “totally unacceptable”.

Top pay has also increased at several of Glasgow City Council’s 10 arm’s-length external organisations – the so-called Aleos – that deliver services in the city. These charities were created in the late 2000s by the then council leader Steven Purcell, before the financial crash.

Aleos are “wholly-owned” subsidiaries of the council whose profits or losses have an impact on public funds. Councils across the country use these bodies but critics of them complain of a lack of accountability.

Total remuneration of senior employees at these quangos rose from £1,465,896 in 2014/15 to £1,480,546 last year.

Among those who saw pay rises were Graham Paterson Executive Director at City Building (Glasgow), who earned £146,358, and Bridget McConnell, chief executive of Culture and Sport Glasgow, who was paid £135,173. Culture and Sport Glasgow run the city’s museums alongside other amenities.

Glasgow councillors have repeatedly complained of budgetary pressures in recent years. This year, Glasgow’s budget allocation from the Scottish Government was cut by £53m to £1.216bn.

A survey in 2014, found that more civil servants working for Glasgow City Council were paid over £100,000 than any other local authority in the UK, with 32 employees receiving a six- figure sum.

At Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, the total wage bill for employees earning over £60,000 a year rose from £300,962 in 2014-15 to £335,123 last year.

At City Property, the total wage bill for employees earning over £60,000 a year rose from £154,200 in 2014-15 to £226,100 last year.

At the regeneration body Clyde Gateway, the number of staff earning in excess of £60,000 increased from four in 2014/15 to nine last year, with gross pay for senior employees rising from £378,931 to £694,665.

City Building, the construction firm run by Glasgow City Council, refused to respond in full to The Ferret’s Freedom of Information requests. The quango has continually posted annual losses and there have been calls for it to be broken up.

Glasgow’s Aleos have come under scrutiny in the past. When the quangos were initially set up, councillors could earn large sums for sitting on the boards. But in 2011, then finance secretary John Swinney outlawed payments to councillors serving on the boards of bodies funded by the same local authority.

Governance issues have been raised in relation to the quangos. A 2015 report by the Scottish Charity Regulator found a high “level of control and influence exerted by local authorities”. Glasgow East Regeneration Agency has since been disbanded.

Among the most controversial of the Aleos is Cordia. Created in 2008 to carry out council home-care services, IT and technical services, Cordia has been involved in a long-running dispute with striking janitors over equal pay.

Cordia has refused to pay its janitors a Working Context and Demands Payment for duties which involve physical demand, working outdoors or dealing with unpleasant conditions. The janitors have taken more than 64 days of strike action since March 2016.

In April, it was announced that the head of crime quango Community Safety Glasgow is due to quit weeks after an investigation into abuse of office allegations. Phil Walker cited health reasons for his decision to leave the arms-length agency but news of his imminent departure came after the emergence of complaints over his conduct as head of the quango which oversees Glasgow’s CCTV network and deals with localised anti-social behaviour.

The Scottish National Party, which is widely expected to take over the running of Glasgow city council from Labour in tomorrow’s local elections, has said that it will set up a full review of the Aleo system.

“We will keep open the option of reforming or abolishing Aleos that are not contributing to the outcomes we want to see,” SNP Glasgow group leader Susan Aitken said recently. “The ones that remain need considerable stronger levels of democratic scrutiny.”

But there is also an awareness that scrapping all the arm’s-length charities might not be feasible, or even desirable.

“Cordia and Community Safety Glasgow are ripe for bringing back in (to direct control by Glasgow City Council),” a well-placed SNP Glasgow source told The Ferret.

“But whatever happens we need to keep City Building…but we could get rid of the middle management.”

Scottish Conservative Glasgow MSP Annie Wells said: “It’s plainly wrong that while council budgets remain as tight as they are, top earners are receiving bumper pay rises. It’s a slap in the face not just to other local authority staff, but council tax payers across the city.

“Clearly, at Glasgow City Council at least, these arrangements have been allowed to spiral out of control, and that’s totally unacceptable.”

Glasgow city councillors’ salaries and expenses fell over the last year, by more than £1million.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “The council has undergone some significant changes during this period and beyond. This has included a reduction in the number of officers at the highest pay levels, while there has been a small increase at some of the lower senior grades.

“Much of this growth is associated with specific projects – including the creation of Health and Social Care Partnerships, delivery of the City Deal and work carried out by Strathclyde Pension Fund on behalf of a number of authorities and scores of other public, private and voluntary sector employers across the region.

“The growth in overall costs is in line with pay inflation through the national pay award over the three years.”

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