Council worker picks up £1.2million pay packet

July 8, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A cash-strapped county council has come under fire for paying a senior manager more than £1.2million over the last five years.

John Betty is employed by Bath and North East Somerset Council (BANES) to oversee major construction projects.

The ‘strategic director for development and major projects’ was also involved in the Bath Spa, project which finished three times over budget at a cost of £45million.

Now it has emerged that Mr Betty, 64, has received £1.2million since 2005 – pocketing £304,000 in one year alone.

But despite the recent crackdown on public sector pay, his contract has been extended at a similar rate – at least £187,000 a year – until 2013.

Chris Howe of Unison South West described the decision to continue employing Mr Betty in the current financial climate as ”incredible”.

He said: ”We find it incredible that the decision makers within Banes council have decided to carry on paying this individual roughly £187,000 a year for the next three years, bearing in mind what he does in terms of development and project work.”

Local Government Minister Grant Shapps described Mr Betty’s deal as ”exorbitant” and warned that the new coalition plans to cut back on such deals.

He said: ”The Audit Commission has warned that these exorbitant pay deals haven’t been matched by improvements in performance.

”The new government is taking action to tackle town hall chiefs pay.”

Mr Betty is not a council employee and is paid through his private company, Hammonds Project Management Services Ltd, of which he is sole director and employee.

His firm was paid £258,196 last year – up from £224,533 in 2008/9, and his contract has now been extended until January 2013. His highest grossing year was £304,425.

In the financial year 2009-10 Mr Betty earned £40,000 more than BANES’ chief executive and at least £100,000 more than other strategic directors.

But because he is paid through his own company, the council does not give him a pension, sick pay, holiday pay or flexible working allowance.

Projects he has overseen include the £155m stabilisation of Combe Down mines, £46m worth of school building initiatives, £28m of facilities for the elderly and disabled, and the £360m SouthGate retail centre.

He was also in charge of the later stages of the Bath Spa development, which cost more than three times the original estimate when it opened in 2006.

Mr Betty, who lives in Plymouth, Devon, had previously worked in construction and ran major projects at Westminster City Council.

BANES, which announced 76 job cuts in February to make five per cent savings, has defended the bill claiming that Mr Betty’s skills warrant his high price tag.

The council said its management of major projects since Mr Betty started had been ”exemplar”.

Conservative MP for North East Somerset, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said Mr Betty had saved the council more money than he cost as he recouped £7m through an out-of-court settlement with the builders and architect of Bath Spa.

He added: ”We are in an age of austerity and councils have to be very careful, but when you put it against £7m of savings, it’s not as bad as it sounds.”

A spokesman said: ”Bath and North East Somerset Council must employ a senior management team which is highly skilled and capable of delivering the local services our residents expect.

”For example, this team has recently delivered a number of major, multi-million pound capital projects on budget and within timescale, which have changed the lives of local people for the better.

”Given the significant economic challenges facing the area the council must retain the right level of skills and capability to tackle these and benefit the economy, environment and community.”

Mr Betty was unavailable for comment.

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