Sunderland Council chief takes pay cut

Sunderland Council chief executive Dave Smith
Sunderland Council chief executive Dave Smith
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THE top boss at Sunderland City Council has volunteered to cut his pay by more than 10 per cent to help balance the authority’s books.

Chief Executive Dave Smith, appointed in 2009 on a salary of more than £170,000, has cut his pay package each year – adding up to a total reduction of 11.6 per cent.

The move was revealed at a budget meeting last night as councillors rubber-stamped a council tax freeze and rowed over what were called “the worst cuts since the Second World War”.

Council chiefs have had to make £58million of savings, but council leader Paul Watson said the authority would still be investing £745million across the city on key services and priorities.

He said: “We all knew that reductions in public spending had to happen, but I for one am saddened, even to anger, at the apparent glee and enthusiasm shown by the Coalition Government in inflicting these cuts – and especially at the relish they have taken in the front-loading of local government cuts rather than have the reductions spread evenly across the four years.”

Coun Watson said the council remained committed to protecting front-line services “as far as possible” and paid tribute to council officers, staff and councillors for producing the budget in the face of “unprecedented” challenges.

He said Dr Smith’s decision to reduce his own pay showed “the character of the man” who had delivered much for Wearside, hitting out at criticism of council chief officers’ pay both locally and nationally.

Coun Watson also warned the council would have to make further reductions next year and in future years, and all authorities were facing incredibly tough choices.

Council chiefs say £19million lost in grants for specific areas mean some services cannot be sustained at their current level.

Children’s centres, schools services and programmes addressing problems in “deprived communities” are among those to be hit.

The council has saved £33million by carrying out reviews and shake ups of services and departments, cutting back-office costs, making better use of ICT and property and reducing the amount spent on buying goods and services.

The authority said generating additional income had helped reach that figure, and a further £6million has been saved from “one off resources and grant flexibilities.”

The council is, however, continuing to invest in some areas.

These include £750,000 to support the port, including funding dredging and other important work to maximise new opportunities for trade.

There will be an extra £1.5m for safeguarding, and savings of £4.5million in health, housing and adult Services will be invested in home care services, extra care facilities and accommodation services for those who need them.

There will be a further £1million invested in improvements to the appearance of the city centre, and £6million has been set aside to support the council’s Economic Masterplan and regeneration work.

Sunderland Conservatives leader Tony Morrissey and his colleagues defended cuts imposed nationally by the Coalition as necessary to avoid mounting national debt and a loss of confidence in the UK economy.

He said: “This is the best budget we could have expected. These are not circumstances we would wish to be in.”

Independent leader Colin Wakefield said Labour and Conservatives blaming each other was no way to move forward, and all sides must instead work to do their best for Wearsiders – particularly young people – in the difficult times ahead.