Tough at the top – Wayne Fitzgerald on executive pay at Peterborough City Council

town_square17:22 Wednesday 18th February 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: It’s been a big day for the restructuring of local government backroom staff in our county, with the two biggest authorities merging resources in what is a landmark deal. Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council have announced the formal merging of some senior jobs in the past couple of hours. Peterborough are claiming it will save them half a million pounds. Let’s bring in one of the men behind this, councillor Wayne Fitzgerald. Hello Wayne.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Hi. Good evening Chris.
CHRIS MANN: A member of the Employment Committee on Peterborough City Council, and also Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care. Just in round terms, tell us why you’ve had to do this and how tough it’s been.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: I think the Chief Executive took the decision that she also has a responsibility in her own directorate, which as you know the Council is split into various directorates, that she had to save money and be seen to be saving money. So this culminates in probably about a year long basically structure of £1.5 million she’s actually taken out of senior management roles, and councils are often criticised for being top-heavy. So that just adds that extra £500,000 on this year, and of course we saved a million pounds last year with the first stage of that restructure.
CHRIS MANN: OK. I’ll just give an example for people. The new Director of Public Health replaces two director posts for both areas, and will oversee public health work in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. So the person in that new job is going to be who? Tell us.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Dr Liz Robin. She’s currently the Director of Public Health in Cambridge, and basically it’s a job-share that we decided that we can pool resource. Because bear in mind Chris that the job isn’t a one-person job in the sense that there’s a whole team of people working underneath that director, both in Peterborough and Cambridge itself. So Dr Robin will just head that, both of those teams, up. It represents really as you say a landmark arrangement, and some would actually say local authorities should go further in sharing senior management.
CHRIS MANN: Well let me ask you that question, because you’re going to have her two days a week. You’re going to pay her £43,000 a year for those two days a week. Is that right?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Yes. It seems incredible when you say that, but there is an acute shortage of directors of public health. You may recall that public health moved back to the responsibility of the councils last year, and that is the going rate. In the can be easily paying £150,000 a year for a director of public health. They are very rare, and of course they are a professional doctor. They do have ..
CHRIS MANN: I do hear what you say Wayne, but I wonder in your own West ward, I know you represented Bretton for many years, when they hear that for instance Wendy Ogle-welbourn has been appointed Corporate Director for People and Communities with a salary of £135,000 a year, people in your West ward might wonder what’s going on.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Well I don’t think they would, in the sense that some people may raise an eyebrow, and I would accept that. But if you get the chance to explain to people individually on a one-to-one basis, they can recognise the value in the person. And bear in mind the Council doesn’t set the salary scales. they are done independently and benchmarked against other local authorities and the not-for-profit sector. So the jobs are evaluated independently and given a points score, which attracts a particular level of salary. And also Chris local government just like any other business is in a competitive marketplace, and we want to retain and keep the best possible staff we have in Peterborough. And I have to say we have a very good team. If you imagine that your boss came to you and said hey Chris, I also want you to do the Breakfast Show, but you’re not getting any more money, so you’re now doing two jobs, I don’t think you’d be best impressed. So we couldn’t really ask Wendy Ogle-welbourn who has been promoted in effect to Corporate Director of People and Communities, to take on all that extra responsibility.
CHRIS MANN: Well again I repeat, I hear what you say, but I think people will say is this what’s going on throughout local government? When we’re talking about .. if I could just finish .. we’re talking about people much lower down in the scale losing their jobs, services being cutback, pounds and pence being saved, and yet at the very top these big salaries. There’s somebody else on £98,000, somebody on £66,000. The Service Director of Adult Services, £99,000. These are big salaries, and especially when you’re living in Peterborough. I think people lower down will be saying, hang on a second, do we need to be paying as much as this?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Well I think they do, in the sense that the marketplace dictates what they get paid. We can all argue that if there was some utopian way of setting salaries and everybody didn’t get above whatever the amount is set, £50,000 a year or something ..
CHRIS MANN: Well let me ask you a specific then. You say the marketplace is at that level. Is the marketplace wrong Wayne? Is this not too much?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Fundamentally, and it’s only my personal opinion. I think that public sector pay has spiralled in recent years. But we are in a difficult situation both as the Council and me as a member of the Employment Committee, having to make decisions about what we pay people and how we appoint people, which is why we have a pay policy which determines how we set pay, which Full Council agree annually. And we will have agreed that. And Council have agreed it.
CHRIS MANN: OK. And these people, they will have very healthy pensions on top of this,won’t they?
WAYNE FITZGERALD: They do. Again, public sector pensions is a .. from a personal point of view, if you were asking me, I think they’re too generous. They have been too generous. But again you’re dealing with a heavily unionised public sector workforce, in many cases historically. I think things have changed Chris. They do change. A lot of places like housing associations have closed their final salary pension schemes that perhaps when they were transferred as in the case of Peterborough they transferred all of their housing and the staff and everything else to a housing provider. And I don’t think they for example carry on that public sector pension scheme.
CHRIS MANN: Wayne, thank you so much for talking to us. Much obliged.
WAYNE FITZGERALD: Thank you very much.
CHRIS MANN: Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald there, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care on Peterborough City Council. Also a member of the Employment Committee, talking about their restructuring of local government backroom staff.