Earlier this year The Chronicle revealed that Pat Ritchie, the Chief Executive of Newcastle Council, had been awarded a £8,500 pay rise under shady circumstances - she now makes £160,000. The Civic Centre is receiving a £45 million makeover on borrowed cash. Meanwhile council taxes have risen by almost 5%, and the city has implemented £221 in cuts since 2010. The city says it can only afford to keep five lollipop men and women.
It is astounding that the council can in one breath condemn cuts from Westminster, whilst approving pay increases for themselves on the sly. The Newcastle websites lists her pay as £150,000 - which is false, as the salary information has not been updated since 2013. This is the pay band she is in and we only found out because The Chronicle investigated it and found she actually earned £10,000 more than that.
Similarly, why is the council approving ambitious renovation projects when it is making cuts to its core services like roads and libraries? This is what people want from their council - basic services and amenities, not flashy offices and well-heeled executives.
People want basic services, not flashy offices
The argument that high wages and flashy offices are needed to attract the best people to the council is unconvincing. The current Chief Executive has been in place for four years. If the wage was high enough to attract her to the position in the first place, it should be enough to keep her now. If it isn’t then she should step aside and let someone else take her place. Someone with the cities’ best interests at heart.
A spokesperson for the council said that the chief executive for Newcastle Council is one of the lowest paid in the region. Tough custard. This shouldn’t be seen as a problem that the council needs to solve, but as a blessing which should be protected. They would be better representatives if they experienced the same livelihood as the people they serve.
Nick Forbes, the political leader of the council does not have an enviable task - having to implement tough cuts in their grant from Central government. However, I would have a lot more sympathy for him if he didn’t have to raise his voice to speak over the drilling of builders improving HIS offices.
The city can build all the offices it wants when they stop going to residents with the begging bowl and firing lollipop men and women. Right now, there are better things to be doing.