Comms heads named as council big earners

Three comms directors have made it on to a controversial list of Britain's highest-earning council employees that grabbed headlines this week.

Top earner LGA’s Guto Harri
Top earner LGA’s Guto Harri

Greater London Authority comms director Guto Harri, Hertfordshire Council comms director John Sellgren and East Sussex Council policy and comms director Becky Shaw are on the list compiled by the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

According to the list, Harri raked in £127,411 in 2007-08, Shaw was paid £106,118 and Sellgren earned £103,434.

The Local Government Ass­ociation defended the salaries paid to council comms staff. Head of news Richard Stokoe said: ‘If they are doing the job well, they deserve to be rewarded.’

He added communications should be a top priority for local government. ‘We need to have more transparency and in this economic climate we have to demonstrate to taxpayers that we deliver value for money,’ he said.

Nevertheless, the salaries of the three comms chiefs app­ear to be far higher than the going rate for a council comms director. Based on job ads last year, the head of corporate communications and marketing at North Lanarkshire Council could expect to earn about £74,500 and the salary for head of corporate comms at Milton Keynes Council is £50,000 per year. Both these roles are the top comms jobs at their ­respective councils.

The report lists more than 1,000 council staff members earning above £100,000 a year.

Stokoe questioned the acc­uracy of the TaxPayers’ Alliance findings, which were extracted from Freedom of Inf­ormation requests. He said some figures were out of date and that the TaxPayers’ Alliance had guessed some of the names of senior staff based on the positions linked to the salary figures it obtained.

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