“The row over a £24,000 pay rise for the boss of a publicly funded enterprise partnership has deepened, with opposition councillors calling for Devon County Council to quit the body “until common sense prevails”.
It comes after the board of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership approved a 26 per cent pay rise for its chief executive on Tuesday, January 17.
It means Chris Garcia, who is employed through Somerset County Council, will earn £115,000 a year for his role helping to promote economic growth in Devon and Somerset.
Unison’s Devon County branch secretary, Steve Ryles, branded the pay rise “absolutely disgraceful” at a time when pay increases for council workers have been capped at one per cent.
Now Devon’s Liberal Democrat councillors have submitted a motion calling on the county council to use whatever means it can to stop the pay rise being implemented.
Cllr Alan Connett, shadow leader of the council, said: “At a time of ever tightening pressure on the public purse and yet more cuts in council services in the region, it is our view that the 26 per cent pay rise sends the wrong message to people when they face rising council tax bills and, for some, cuts in council tax benefit schemes which help the poorest.
“As a matter of genuine urgency, the board of the Local Enterprise Partnership should reconsider the pay rise it has awarded.”
The motion, proposed by Councillor Connett and seconded by Councillor Brian Greenslade, states: “At a time of huge reductions in Government funding for local councils forcing cuts in health, education, care for older people and children, Devon County Council is offended by the reported 26 per cent pay rise for the chief executive of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.
“We call upon the council to take urgent steps to stop the annual pay rise of £24,271 and if it cannot do that, to withdraw from membership of the partnership until common sense prevails with regard to top management pay increases.”
Businesses, universities and local authorities are represented on the LEP board, including East Devon District Council and Devon County Council.
Asked how the proposal came about, the spokeswoman said: “The recommendation was made jointly by the chairs of the LEP board and of the LEP Finance & Resources Committee, in the interests of enabling the LEP to continue its momentum of success towards delivering its strategic economic plan.”
The LEP is chaired by Steve Hindley, chairman of Exeter-based construction firm Midas Group.
Before Tuesday’s board meeting in Tiverton, Devon County Council leader John Hart said: “As a local authority subject to significant government cuts, I cannot support a pay rise of 25 per cent for any high-level official.
“It is clear the CEO does a good job and the LEP has brought many millions of pounds into the Devon economy. But there has to be recognition of the tight financial times in which we live.”
A county council spokesman said on Wednesday the authority would be making no further comment on the matter.
The motion will be considered at the council’s budget and council tax setting meeting on Thursday, February 16.”
A spokeswoman for the LEP said it would not be releasing a breakdown of how board members voted on the CEO’s pay“