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Kent County Council offers 'premium payments' in salary packages to ensure posts are filled

Staff are being offered increased salaries at KCC
Staff are being offered increased salaries at KCC

Kent County Council increased salary packages offered for some senior staff by paying premiums worth thousands of pounds to ensure the jobs were filled, a report has revealed.

In some cases, so-called "premium payments" were made to enhance the pay packages of senior directors on six-figure salaries.

In two cases, the salary scale for two senior social workers posts were increased by £36,860 and £21,860.

Both are assistant directors in specialist children's services and their recruitment came at a time when the council was trying to turn round services for vulnerable children.

Salaries for a further two director posts in social services were increased by £14,100 and £4,860. The council said it was not identifying who they were.

The county council said the increases were necessary to ensure what it was offering was competitive with similar jobs in the public sector elsewhere.

"If you want the best people running the biggest authority in the country, you have to pay the market rate and sometimes a little bit more" - Council leader Paul Carter

And they were defended by council leader Paul Carter. He said the authority needed a flexible pay policy to ensure it attracted the best candidates for the job.

"If you want the best people running the biggest authority in the country, you have to pay the market rate and sometimes a little bit more. I think we are going about it responsibly."

UKIP county councillor Martyn Heale said the council needed to be cautious its policy did not lead to competition with others.

"Other councils may [decide] they have to follow KCC and pay a premium. I do feel that while these people feel they are worth this money, that may not be the perception of the general public."

Amanda Beer, KCC's head of human resources, said paying premiums was more effective than adjusting salary grades.

Under details of payments made under the scheme this week, a report reveals how the policy has been applied to a number of posts.

The salary offered for the job as the council's the head of procurement was increased by £20,000.

The pay grade for the council's education director Patrick Leeson, earns £161,600, was enhanced by £7,070 while the authority's director of education quality and standards Sue Rogers was increased by £7,009. Her salary is listed on KCC's website as £97,000.

The county council also increased by £7,000 the pay on offer when it recruited a new communications director. That job is held by Matt Burrows, whose salary is £95,877.

The salary for the job of highways director attracted a premium of £6,000. That post is held by John Burr, whose salary is £111,302.

The council also took on 26 newly qualified social workers on pay rates that were £2,000 above the national scale as part of a drive to improve care for vulnerable children.

The bumping-up of pay for jobs is operated under a KCC policy that permits "discretionary payments" in exceptional circumstances.

A report presented to county councillors on KCC's personnel committee says the sums involved indicate the council is not spending "a significant amount of money."

In a statement, the county council said: "The payments are to assist the authority in attracting and retaining staff in key positions at Kent County Council.

"The majority of these are in the area of our specialist children's services.

"Payments reflect market rates and are only made after careful consideration that includes a detailed business case with comparative assessments of salaries available in the market.

"Hence it is the job that attracts payment, not the individual."

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