Backdated pay rise for senior Southend Council officials as search continues for new chief executive

Southend Council’s top boss is in line for a bumper pay rise of more than £20,000, despite concerns it sets the “wrong example” to residents struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

The windfall pay rise, which will be backdated more than a year, will see the council’s chief executive given a 1.75 per cent  backdated increase and going forward a rise from £163,496 to £185,000.

Stephen George, leader of the Labour-led joint administration, said difficulty recruiting a new chief executive was behind the inflation-busting increases.

Senior Southend City Council official, Andy Lewis, is currently interim chief executive and recruitment for the role is under way.

Directors are also set for a 1.75 per cent increase backdated to April 2021.

The increases were announced during a cabinet meeting, where some councillors questioned whether it was appropriate to be approving bumper pay rises at a time when fuel, energy and food costs are spiralling.

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal ward, said: “I’m not thrilled about this at a time when everyone is feeling the pinch with the cost of living. I’m not sure it’s the best example of making sure the people who need it get the most money.”

Adventure Island boss Philip Miller – one of the city’s biggest employers – added: “There is never any justice when it comes to comparing pay awards, when you look at a nurse who changes old people’s bed pans or poor coppers who suffer non-stop abuse from lowlifes

“I know there are thousands of very capable business people out there who would spit their teeth out for salaries such as these.”

Speaking during the meeting, Cllr George told councillors: “This is a reflection of the current market conditions.

“It’s quite clear that having advertised the role at the higher salary, we have now got a long list of candidates.”

Martin Terry, councillor responsible for public protection added: “I think it’s absolutely essential that everyone understands we’ve had difficulty recruiting a new chief executive.

“We’ve had difficulty recruiting executive directors because we are behind in the pay scale.

“It’s absolutely vital that we get the right person at this stage of Southend’s history to take the town forward with all the exciting things that could potentially happen.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter