A POLITICAL row has broken out over the salary advertised for town clerk to a controversial new council.
The Government agreed to the establishment of a town council in Stanley, County Durham, after receiving a petition with 2,500 signatures, despite opponents branding it a white elephant.
The new council met for the first time five months ago and is now advertising for a Town Clerk with a salary scale ranging between £43,118 and £46,503 for a 37-hour week.
But Watts Stelling, leader of Derwentside Independents, the main opposition group to Labour in the district, said: “That seems a ridiculously high amount for somebody taking over what is in effect a parish council. I personally don’t believe that there will be enough work to justify that scale of salary.”
And Durham County Councillor Reg Ord, who represents Burnopfield and Dipton, Stanley, said: “The town council is going to have to justify that salary to the council taxpayers of Stanley, because they are the ones footing the bill.”
But Tom Pattinson, the first chairman of the fledgling authority, said the planned wage was the norm for that sort of position.
He said: “The salary may surprise some people, but we are simply following government guidelines. The salary is the norm for a clerk to a town council with a population of 31,000 and a budget of in excess of half a million pounds.”
The advertisement reads: “We are seeking a suitably qualified, experienced and enthusiastic person to be appointed as our first Town Clerk.
“The successful applicant must be able to demonstrate relevant experience and ideally hold a Local Policy qualification (or this must be obtained within three years of appointment) to enable the council to reach Quality Status.
“This full time post requires the Clerk to be responsible for managing the day to day business of the Council, providing appropriate advice and implementing Council decisions.”
But Coun Ord pointed out that Durham County Council’s new chief executive, George Garlick, has a salary of £200,000 per year, but is responsible for a budget of £1bn a year and employs 22,000 people to serve 500,000 residents. He said: “He is responsible for serving a population more than 15 times larger than Stanley, so presumably the appropriate salary for the Stanley town clerk should be approximately one fifteenth of £200,000,” added Coun Ord.
The issue of a town council for Stanley caused a split among Labour party loyalists.
Some supported North Durham MP Kevan Jones, who campaigned for the council to be established to give Stanley residents a greater say in their own affairs. But others said a new council would simply add to the burden on the council taxpayer, and become a white elephant.