Last week, we witnessed a furore over the pay award for Thurrock Council’s senior staff and a proposal that the 4% pay rise be withdrawn given the financial difficulties being faced by the Council.
The first thing to say is that there is considerable anxiety on the part of everyone who works at Thurrock Council. They are all well aware of the problems and are fearful for their jobs. A public row about pay settlements will do nothing to reassure them. We all understand how angry the public is about what has happened. Making a big issue about officers pay is simply gratuitous. What the public expect now is councillors to do the right thing to fix what has happened.
In doing that, the staff are the very people who will deliver that. It is therefore self defeating to attack them. Those who are responsible and accountable for the failure have departed. Those that remain will not be encouraged to stay if their pay is weaponised by press and councillors wanting a cheap headline.
There are those who continue to place all the blame on officers. Officers can only do what Members let them. The Council is the elected members. It isn’t its staff. All action takes place in the name of elected councillors. It is the job of elected councillors to exercise scrutiny over the actions of the Council. To ask the right questions and satisfy themselves that the corporate body of the Council is performing.
I know the pay rise is not likely to be popular. When we take office, our primary obligations are to the public we serve. That means doing the right thing over what is politically expedient. It is very clear that Thurrock Council must honour the pay rise expected by its staff.