Northumberland County Council restores chief role with £17K pay rise

Steve Mason.
Steve Mason.

The administration at County Hall has come in for criticism over bringing back the chief executive role and giving its lead officer a pay rise.

The post has been taken up by Steve Mason – he was previously lead executive director. His salary has gone up from £166,199 to £183,232, £41,000 more than the Prime Minister.

Opposition groups have questioned how the move can be justified as it comes less than two years after Northumberland County Council scrapped the chief executive position as part of a cost cutting review of its senior management structure.

This included giving then chief executive Steve Stewart a voluntary redundancy compensation package of £179,288 in late 2013.

The authority’s 8,000 or so staff have had pay rises of one per cent in 2013 and 2.2 per cent at the beginning of this year.

Conservative group leader Peter Jackson said: “It was a much flaunted efficiency saving when it was announced in 2013 that the council no longer needed a chief executive.

“Only this Labour-led administration could cut this post to save money, only to bring it back less than two years later with an even bigger salary attached.

“When you take into consideration the fact the council’s budget has reduced by 25 per cent over that period of time, it is actually even harder to justify bringing back the role on such a high salary.”

County council leader Grant Davey said: “Before we agreed to set the salary at £183,232, the recommendation went to a cross party of councillors for comment.

“It is our firm belief we should pay the correct rate for the job. This is in line with salary levels paid in respect of other county councils and the former chief executive of the county council and is an appropriate salary for the head of a large organisation with over 8,000 staff.”