A TORY has attacked council “fat cats” at Sunderland City Council who earn more than three times the regional average.
A freedom of information request has revealed that 45 employees – mainly heads and deputy heads of services – take home an annual wage of £60,000 or more.
The average wage in Sunderland is around £20,000, according to the Office of National Statistics.
Sunderland opposition leader, Tory Robert Oliver, said the gap between the council’s top and bottom earners is too wide.
He said: “The chief executive is on a salary higher than the prime minister and the lowest earners take home only 10 pence more than the minimum wage.
“The Labour group cannot complain about ‘fat cats’ elsewhere when they preside over the same at their own council, and not should be talking up the ‘living wage’ when it is in their gift to raise the 15 per cent of employees who are earning less than it.”
Sunderland Unison organiser Helen Metcalf said: “Unison notes, with deep concern, that there are 45 senior managers earning over £60,000 at a time when the council is faced with making cuts of a further £110million.
“Where cuts are made, this must be carried out in a fair and equitable manner so as not to further penalise those suffering genuine financial hardship.
“Council staff have been subjected to a four-year pay freeze, following a miserly one per cent pay increase.
“In real terms, wages have been cut by 15 per cent and people are far worse off now as a result.
“The North East has been one of the hardest hit areas in the UK and sees a day-on-day rise in personal debt levels, foodbank use and a lack of job security.”
She added: “Unison urges the council to pay the living wage of £7.65 an hour to council staff – the minimum amount recommended by an independent commission for a family to live on with basic necessities.”
Council leader Paul Watson said steps were being taken to reduce high-earning roles at the council.
He said: “Clearly if you look at the council’s history over the last five years or more, you can see that we’ve cut senior management positions.
“These manager positions and the senior management team deal with the delivery of services to people, the type of services we have promised to ensure we protect. If they are not operated properly, we can’t protect them.
“We are probably one of the most successful authorities in the country in reducing our cost base and in doing so, we have protected services, but with another £115million worth of cuts in the next three years, nothing is guaranteed.”