COMMUNITY leaders in the Staffordshire Moorlands have reacted with anger amid figures showing senior county council officials are earning 'fat cat' salaries – while front-line services are being cut.
Figures obtained by the Post & Times show seven senior officers at the authority were paid salary packages of almost £1.2 million between them in 2013/14 – with chief executive Nick Bell receiving more than the Prime Minister.
The figures also show that 704 people earned basic salaries of between £50,000 and £204,999 in that year, the same number as in 2012/13. Of these, 469 were teachers.
The county council said it needs to offer competitive salaries to attract the best staff – but the payments have come under fire due to service cuts.
The council announced it was closing Leek Nursery in 2012 despite a fierce battle to save it. This was followed by the closure of Leek Day Centre. Both were located at the former Weston Street Mill, which has recently been sold.
The council has also announced that Moorlands Day Services for people with learning difficulties in Buxton Road, Leek, was to be downsized; hundreds of youth workers are facing redundancy, leading to fears some clubs could close; and libraries face cuts in hours, with sites such as Werrington and Blythe Bridge expected to be run by volunteers.
Leek's Deputy Mayor Pam Wood said: "Local government officers should not be paid more than the Prime Minister.
"Everything put in place to support vulnerable people after the Second World War has been eroded or dismantled in the last three or four years, yet these officers are still earning vast amounts of money.
"Is it fair that their lifestyle is untouched, but the poorer people of our society are being hit?
"I fear for the future if things do not change."
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Brian Pointon is volunteer bandmaster with the Moorlands Youth Band.
Mr Pointon, aged 72, of Westwood Road, Leek, said: "We use the youth services premises at Milward Hall for band practices.
"I understand that youth workers are going to be given their notices. If Milward Hall Youth Centre closed we could have to close the band.
"The next thing people will be complaining about is that young people are on the streets.
"We should not be paying these sort of fat cat wages when people are suffering from severe cuts."
Leek resident Roger Adams, of Langford Street, added: "How can such salaries be justified? How can they face the people they serve?
"Seven officers are sharing almost £1.2 million. How many youth clubs and day centres would this fund. This reflects a complete detachment from people and reality."
Leek South county councillor Charlotte Atkins said senior council officials "should be sharing in the pain".
She added: "What worries me is that senior officers are earning this amount of money at a time of when the county council is making huge cuts in front-line services."
Figures show chief executive Nick Bell last year received a basic salary of £194,550, a pension contribution of £36,268 and £8,325 in expenses and allowances, making a total of £239,143. Prime Minister David Cameron has a basic salary of £142,500. Six more officers earned packages of between £147,559 and £178,532.
The council's total wage bill for 2013/14 for an average staff of 6,457 was £140,676,685, while 597 people were paid a total of £12,933,146 in exit packages.
Councillor Ian Parry, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: "As a county council we have had to radically change the way we do business to ensure we get the maximum return for every taxpayer's pound, and crucially are able to protect and deliver support to the most vulnerable in Staffordshire, such as children in care and the very frail and elderly.
"This has meant moving away from running some historically under-used, outdated, unfit and expensive buildings to instead supporting more people where they want to be; in their homes, with their families and in the community.
"Our senior officers have been instrumental in this transformation of the organisation and have not only already achieved £130 million of savings, but also brought in extra investment to the county – all without raising council tax.
"We want the best people working for the council and doing the best job for residents and clearly we have to pay salaries in line with other county councils to do this.
"The senior team was also recently reduced in size, resulting in an annual saving of £106,000."