Lancashire County Council in media battle over exec pay

Lancashire County Council's comms team has defended the decision to award a £65,000 pay rise to a senior executive, following criticism from the Government.

HQ: Lancashire County Council
HQ: Lancashire County Council

Phil Halsall is to take over the role of chief executive in 2011. His new £195,000 wage is the same as outgoing boss Ged Fitzgerald, who is moving to Liverpool City Council.

Halsall’s current role of executive director of resources and deputy chief executive is to be scrapped in a move to save more than £500,000 over three years. But despite the overall savings, the Lancashire Telegraph reported that Conservative local government minister Bob Neill urged members to ‘think carefully’ about the decision at the next full council meeting.

Neill was also reported to have told the local paper: ‘A bumper £65,000 pay rise will strike the vast majority of people in Lancashire as excessive, particularly at a time when councils should be concentrating on reducing costs.’

Public sector sources said the episode demonstrated the tough task facing council press officers attempting to communicate cost savings.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said of the announcement, which took place last week: ‘We had key messages to communicate about the substantial savings generated by the appointment of our new chief executive, along with the benefits for continuity of appointing an internal candidate.

Overwhelmingly, our local media reported the announcement positively but it was not surprising that pay levels should generate some interest, despite the fact that the chief executive’s salary would remain the same.’

Lancashire County Council also hit the headlines last week when The Daily Telegraph rev-ealed that it had spent £10.2m on staff travel, compared with £6.5m spent five years before.

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