The time has come around again for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, that slightly unhinged right-wing pressure group that resents the Government’s tax income being spent on anything at all that might benefit its citizens – offering affordable student loans, paying our GPs, offering child benefit and giving public sector staff the right to take sick leave appear among its latest gripes – to publish its Town Hall Rich List.
For the uninitiated (and who can blame you?) this is a list of the top earners in local government, usually comprising the chief executives and senior policy wonks inside England’s biggest, and often most troubled, councils. Every year it is published to the sound of tuts and boos from the residents of Middle England; it’s almost as if was designed specifically to appeal to the prejudices and lazy assumptions of that prolific sign-off “Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells”. And every year it deserves a decent unpicking.
Given its ambitions, however, the TPA couldn’t have picked a worse day to let its latest bit of data-crunching out in the open. Its abject horror at the admittedly significant sums earned by top public servants sounds a discordant note against the news that they are responsible for solving the biggest social crisis our country currently faces – the potential collapse of the social care system.
According to the charity Skills for Care, 338,520 people left their jobs as adult social care workers in 2015-16, which equates to 928 people every single day of the year. There were 1.3 million people employed in the sector during that period, so that’s a significant proportion of the workforce on their way out. Worse, 60 per cent of those departing said, when asked, that they were leaving the care profession altogether.
Most care workers earn the minimum wage. Although that is increasing to £9 an hour by 2020, a move which may help retain those struggling to meet the cost of living, it could also bankrupt care firms who are hit by rising staffing costs and Government cuts to the care budget filtered through councils.
The warning has been sounded. “My biggest fear is that we will soon run out of capacity to provide care to those who cannot fund themselves,” said Mike Padgham, chair of the UK Homecare Association, this week. Think about the implications of that: for those who cannot afford to fund it privately, but who desperately need it, there will be no care available. In Britain, in 2017.
That moment of collapse is edging ever closer, as the population ages and the demands we place on care continue to increase.
So, who is responsible for preventing that occurring? And are they being given the support they need to do it? That will be senior council leaders, and to the latter the answer must be an emphatic “no”. Instead, they are seeing their lives and salaries dragged through a trial by media at which a jury of self-selecting reluctant taxpayers will rule them worthy or – more likely – unworthy.
The TPA’s “audit” of council staff found that 539 earned at least £150,000 in pay and benefits in 2015-16, a rise of 11 per cent on the year before, and more than 2,000 individuals earned six figure sums.
These include the chief executive, the finance director and the executive director of people’s services at Sunderland council – all jobs responsible for bringing an end to the care crisis fast. Also picked out were the chief executive of Kingston upon Thames, the strategic director at Birmingham, the director of community at Fareham and the finance director of North Lanarkshire.
No wonder these roles have big pay packets. They are dealing with a range of the most complex social issues today, and they are sticking around to do it. They should be rewarded for doing so, especially at a time of retraction and retrenchment, during which a lot of skilled people have jumped ship into the exponentially more lucrative private sector consulting market.
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
Everyone the Government blames for the NHS crisis – except themselves
1/6 The elderly
“We acknowledge that there are pressures on the health service, there are always extra pressures on the NHS in the winter, but we have the added pressures of the ageing population and the growing complex needs of the population,” Theresa May has said. Waits of over 12 hours in A&E among elderly people have more than doubled in two years, according to figures from NHS Digital.
2/6 Patients going to A&E instead of seeing their GPs
Jeremy Hunt has called for a “honest discussion with the public about the purpose of A&E departments”, saying that around a third of A&E patients were in hospital unnecessarily. Mr Hunt told Radio 4’s Today programme the NHS now had more doctors, nurses and funding than ever, but explained what he called “very serious problems at some hospitals” by suggesting pressures were increasing in part because people are going to A&Es when they should not. He urged patients to visit their GP for non-emergency illnesses, outlined plans to release time for family doctors to support urgent care work, and said the NHS will soon be able to deliver seven-day access to a GP from 8am to 8pm. But doctors struggling amid a GP recruitment crisis said Mr Hunt’s plans were unrealistic and demanded the Government commit to investing in all areas of the overstretched health service.
3/6 Simon Stevens, head of NHS England
Reports that “key members” of Ms May’s team used internal meetings to accuse Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, of being unenthusiastic and unresponsive have been rejected by Downing Street. Mr Stevens had allegedly rejected claims made by Ms May that the NHS had been given more funding than required.
4/6 Previous health policy, not funding
In an interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge, Ms May acknowledged the NHS faced pressures but said it was a problem that had been “ducked by government over the years”. She refuted the claim that hospitals were tackling a “humanitarian crisis” and said health funding was at record levels. “We asked the NHS a while back to set out what it needed over the next five years in terms of its plan for the future and the funding that it would need,” said the Prime Minister. “They did that, we gave them that funding, in fact we gave them more funding than they required… Funding is now at record levels for the NHS, more money has been going in.” But doctors accused Ms May of being “in denial” about how the lack of additional funding provided for health and social care were behind a spiralling crisis in NHS hospitals.
5/6 Target to treat all A&E patients within four hours
Mr Hunt was accused of watering down the flagship target to treat all A&E patients within four hours. The Health Secretary told MPs the promise – introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 2000 – should only be for “those who actually need it”. Amid jeers in the Commons, Mr Hunt said only four other countries pledged to treat all patients within a similar timeframe and all had “less stringent” rules. But Ms May has now said the Government will stand by the four-hour target for A&E, which says 95 per cent of patients must be dealt with within that time frame.
6/6 No one
Mr Hunt was accused of “hiding” from the public eye following news of the Red Cross’s comments and didn’t make an official statement for two days. He was also filmed refusing to answer questions from journalists who pursued him down the street yesterday to ask whether he planned to scrap the four-hour A&E waiting time target. Sky News reporter Beth Rigby pressed the Health Secretary on his position on the matter, saying “the public will want to know, Mr Hunt”. “Sorry Beth, I’ve answered questions about this already,” replied Mr Hunt. “But you didn’t answer questions on this. You said it was over-interpreted in the House of Commons and you didn’t want to water it down. Is that what you’re saying?” said Ms Rigby. “It’s very difficult, because how are we going to explain to the public what your intention is, when you change your position and then won’t answer the question, Mr Hunt”. But the Health Secretary maintained his silence until he reached his car and got in.
The total reward pots for those jobs in the last year ranged between £380,000 and £625,570. Some might argue that given their level of responsibility, three or more times “the Prime Minister’s salary” (a pointless comparison, given the sheer magnitude of freebies that come with that job, from housing to transport to food) is well deserved.
If not – if you think that six figures might cut it for the handful of people in charge of keeping us safe, housed and cared for and our communities functioning, but six times starts to push credulity – then worry not, because these figures are massaged. These top 10 “fat cats” are not on bloated salaries, but are benefiting from a system that gives enormous handouts to get rid of people quickly.
Dave Smith, the chief executive of Sunderland, for example, “resigned” after seven years at the top of the local authority and in the wake of a poor Ofsted report for its children’s services function. Instead of being expected to turn the situation around, he departed rapidly, therefore qualifying for a major pay-off and outstanding pension contributions.
The figures at the top of these charts are soaring because, as well as cutting budgets drastically, the Government has also encouraged ruthlessness in town halls, a corporate impatience for “results” which sees public servants paid vast sums to disappear quietly when it suits Whitehall.
The results of all that are a lack of consistency and the continuing collapse of our social care system. It doesn’t seem like the most sensible time to drive our best minds out of public service by a process of ritual public humiliation – but clearly the TPA disagrees.Reuse content