Council bosses' bonuses revealed in Essex

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Essex County Council paid out more than £90,000 in bonuses to senior staff last year, BBC Essex has learned.

The figure is an increase on the total amount paid out in bonuses the previous year (£57,000).

One Essex County Council director received £30,000 on top of a basic salary of £125,000.

The council said the higher bonuses reflect extra responsibilities staff were taking on, as the council aims to save £300m in the next three years.

Six-figure salaries

BBC Essex discovered the figures, which appear in the county council's annual accounts for 2009/2010.

The payouts have attracted criticism from Unison, the union which represents the council's lower-paid staff.

Noel Devlin, regional organiser for the east, said: "It's important that we have properly paid employees in local government.

"However, these bonuses seem to be related to senior staff, already on six-figure salaries, while the vast majority of local government employees earn less than £21,000."

Four senior staff shared more than half of the total payout. The biggest single payout - £30,000 - went to the director of human resources.

The executive director for finance and the executive director for commercial services each pocketed nearly £14,000.

Financial pressure

The revelation comes as the council is having to cope with cuts to the funding it receives from the government.

Earlier this year, the authority admitted that it will have to cut at least 275 managerial posts to save money. It also warned that services are likely to suffer.

However, Charles Cotton, of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said there was a place for bonuses in the public sector.

Mr Cotton told the BBC: "Bonuses have had a bad press because of what has been going on in the financial services sector, but that doesn't mean they are wrong.

"You just have to be careful about how they are managed."

A spokesperson from Essex County Council said: "Overall, Essex County Council has reduced the amount paid to the corporate leadership team by over £80,000 in the last year.

"As part of the Transformation Project and the council's aim to save £300m, all staff are being expected to take on extra responsibilities and deliver more while continuing to make savings. The higher bonuses reflect this."

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