Surge in council’s top earners

Despite paying generous exit packages to three top officials, Scottish Borders Council achieved 80% of its “planned efficiency savings” in 2014/15.

That is the claim of leader David Parker in his foreword to the council’s unaudited accounts for the year ending March 31 which were published last week.

Councillor Parker said he was “proud” of what had been achieved “against a very difficult financial background”.

A code of practice requires local authorities to publish the number of staff earning £50,000 a year or more, excluding employers’ pension and NI contributions.

The accounts reveal that 109 employees were in that upper pay bracket last year, compared to 96 in 2013/14 – a hike of 13%.

These high earners comprised 67 teachers (61 the previous year), 26 chief officers (25) and 16 “other staff”(10).

The document also gives details of the departure costs of three senior officers who left SBC in April last year.

Glen Rodger (director of education) received £82,569 in “compensation for loss of employment” along with a pension lump sum of £119,798 and an annual pension of £48,999.

Henry Thomson (head of transformation projects) was compensated to the tune of £60,803 and took a pension lump sum amounting to £98,943. His annual pension is £39,062.

And Ian Wilkie (head of corporate governance) received a compensation payment of £61,892, along with a pension lump sum of £84,484 and an annual pension of £34,242.

The total of 40 exit packages, including 21 compulsory redundancies, cost the council £626,136.

The highest earner last year was chief executive Tracey Logan whose remuneration went up from £118,893 in 2013/14 to £128,617 – the increase largely down to the £7,800 she received as returning officer at three elections in 2014.

Mr Parker, apart from hailing the efficiency savings, stressed that the council had delivered £257.7million of revenue spending “within the revised budget”, had increased reserves by £1.9million and had delivered £31.4million of capital investment in schools, flood protection, road lighting and other assets.

The management commentary section of the document concludes: “The operating environment for the council continues to be very challenging with financial and economic influences such as welfare reform, increasing demands on services, low interest rates and cost pressures from pay and price inflation all affecting the council’s finances.

“The council, despite these challenges, remains financially sound and well placed to serve the people of the Scottish Borders in future.”