The move will see the holder of the councils’ shared top post paid at least £9,000 more than their predecessor after a joint senior staff committee (JSSC) report warned the current salary of £125,406 was ‘unlikely to attract candidates of a high enough calibre to deliver on the ambitions of the two councils’.
An incoming chief executive could now expect to earn between £134,000 and £155,000 with a total cost to the councils of between £176,860 and £204,780 after pension and National Insurance contributions.
The recruitment process is due to start by October and will cost around £30,000.
Worthing Borough Council leader Dan Humphreys said the increase would be ‘value for money for the people of Worthing’ and said that Adur and Worthing’s CE was the ‘lowest paid anywhere in Sussex’.
Hazel Thorpe (LDem, Tarring) said the increase was ‘unpalatable’ considering the recent ‘measly’ three per cent pay increase for NHS staff.
She said: “I’m just really sorry about the timing of this particular article. I think it’s a false dichotomy to say that higher salaries mean better candidates.
“People that are focused on money don’t always necessarily do the best job for the community.
“The NHS got a measly three per cent pay rise and yet we’re asking our taxpayers to pay up through council tax for one person.
“It is just not palatable to give somebody a salary rise at this particular moment.”
However, Mr Humphreys called this a ‘false dichotomy’ saying: “Suggesting that people are either in this for doing good for the community or they’re in it for the money, well that’s not the case.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a senior officer in my whole time here at Worthing Borough Council who’s just been in it for the money.”
Public sector pay was also raised by Worthing’s Rebecca Cooper (Lab, Marine) and Adur’s Catherine Arnold (Lab, St Mary’s).
Ms Arnold said: “We cannot support this payscale as it has been suggested when we have frontline public service workers who have gone through extraordinary experiences since the pandemic struck.
“We’re not going to stand by and watch services be cut and council taxes potentially raised to fund this additional salary. That would be unfair to those on the most modest incomes.”
Ms Arnold noted that both Ms Cooper and Lee Cowen (Lab, Mash Barn) agreed to the salary increase during the JSSC but had subsequently changed their minds.
Ms Cooper said the increase would send the wrong message to those with public sector salaries.
She said: “The current salary is a lot of money actually and it is more than enough to live on in Worthing and it’s more than enough to do a good job here in Worthing Borough Council.”
But Adur executive member for resources Angus Dunn (Con, Hillside) said that comparing the council chief executive’s salary to that of public sector workers was ‘odd’.
He said: “It’s an odd comparison to make between the CEO of a near-billion pound organisation and the salary of a police officer.
“Maybe the comparison should be the chief constable versus the police officer. Maybe that would be a bit more obvious.”
The proposed increase was approved by both Adur District Council and Worthing Borough Council. Both councils were required to approve the increase for it to come into effect.