Tagged: Chief Executive

Benefit Cut Could Force Social Landlords To Turn Tenants Away

David Cameron’s pledge to cut the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 if the Conservatives win the next election could force housing associations to turn away families in need of social housing.

Speaking at a Guardian fringe debate at the Conservative party conference on Tuesday, chief executives of two major housing associations warned that the cut would jeopardise their tenants’ ability to pay rent, putting their main source of steady income at risk.

Mick Sweeney, chief executive of One Housing Group, which operates in London and the southeast, said associations may be forced to abandon plans to build much-needed new homes as result of the change. They may also have to turn away certain tenants, he added.

“We’re going to look at their income and we’re going to have to say, if they’re wholly benefit-dependent and they can’t afford even the sub-market or social rents that we’re charging, [then] we can’t house you,” he said.

“What happens to those families? There are lots of unintended consequences to this.”

Elizabeth Austerberry, chief executive of Moat, which also houses tenants across the southeast of England, said that rent was the biggest source of steady income for associations. Rental streams are already placed under threat by the introduction of universal credit.

“If the benefit cap goes down to £23,000, it will make certain types of home extremely vulnerable,” she said.

Between 40-50% of Moat’s residents are benefit dependent, Austerberry explained, adding that for some housing associations this figure is as high as 80%.

“For an association like that it [the reduction of the cap] will make it extremely difficult for them to generate new housing, particularly if they haven’t got a strong housing market. I suspect it will make it extremely difficult for us to build three-bedroom homes, and maybe two-bedroom homes in most of our areas.

“If we’re not going to be able to collect rent from people, then where is the money going to come from? That again will push us further towards the open market.”

Housing associations have increasingly pursued commercial projects to generate income since the government cut grant funding for new social homes by 60% in 2010. But securing finance for such operations is challenging if investors notice a risk to an association’s main income stream, Sweeney said.

If the banks get nervous then they won’t lend us money. And if they won’t lend us money then we can’t build new homes.”

Richard Blakeway, director of housing for the mayor of London, said that housing associations have no choice but to raise money through commercial projects.

There needs to be an acceptance that the landscape has changed. Some housing associations have responded brilliantly, others are still quite cautious. They need to stop thinking that there is going to be a significant change in terms of capital subsidy in relation to affordable housing, because I can’t see that happening.”

Uncertainty could not be cited as a reason for avoiding commercial initiatives, he added.

“The funding settlement that exists now will last until the end of the decade, and then the rent settlement goes into the middle of the next decade.”

Conference delegate David Hancock, representing Hyde Housing Group, questioned how associations could succeed in a commercial market under current regulation rules.

“We have to carry out commercial activity to meet our social objectives, but we’re regulated by a regulator which is principally driven by protecting public assets. At some point that has to give,” he said.

Sweeney agreed, stating that although the coalition’s decision to abolish the Audit Commission and the Tenant Services Authority was welcome, change to the regulation of the housing sector was still needed. The Homes and Communities Agency “needs to be put back in its box,” he said.

“It’s growing, it’s trying to extend its remit, its trying to second guess what our business plans are. I hope a conservative government would put regulation on a proper footing, and that is not interfering with building homes.”

Source –  Welfare News Service, 01 Oct 2014

Council boss gets £25,000 pay rise while lowest paid offered two per cent

A council chief executive’s pay has rocketed 25 per cent in two years whilst its lowest paid workers have been offered two per cent, prompting calls for more scrutiny on top public sector pay.

The head of Hambleton District Council, Phillip Morton, was taken on in 2012 at £100,000 and is now earning £125,000 after management restructuring.

Previously the North Yorkshire authority had shared the chief executive role and senior management team with neighbouring Richmondshire District Council under its money-saving, shared services agreement.

But when the shared chief executive left, the two councils re-established their own management teams.

Although Mr Morton’s salary is amongst the lowest for chief executives in the North-East and North Yorkshire, the timing of the rise has been criticised, with many tax payers struggle to afford essentials with the cost of living crisis.

A Hambleton District Councillor, who this week tried to raise the issue of the £25,000 pay rise, had his attempts stifled when he tried to speak up about it in a public meeting.

Councillor Ken Billings tried to bring up the issue at the end of Tuesday’s (July 22) cabinet meeting, but was told the minutes he was referring to had already been approved earlier in the meeting – and it was against council procedure to discuss approved minutes.

The Northallerton councillor said: “If I’d been given the opportunity to speak I would have asked what the additional roles and responsibilities were in this new structure to warrant this kind of increase at a time when public sector pay is supposed to be restricted.

“When they announced there was going to be corporate management restructuring, I said I hoped this wasn’t an opportunity to give the people at the top a big pay rise.”

He added: “There’s no justification for these figures. This is only a small council, it’s not a county council or a unitary council it’s a local district council and this kind of salary increase just isn’t warranted.

“I feel the council has been led on a short lead over this. They’ve just rubber-stamped it and it’s gone through.

“Public sector pay is supposed to be constrained at the moment but executive pay seems to be exempt – you would think they didn’t work for the public sector.”

But council leader Mark Robson said Hambleton is one of the few authorities not to be cutting services. He said staff had also been offered a two per cent pay rise, which was more than the one per cent the Government recommended.

He said the chief executive pay was publicised on the council website and had been approved by full council.

He said: “It’s all part of the restructuring which was approved by council. Bear in mind before the reorganisation we had five directors and now we have three. We have saved £511,000 since the restructuring.

“Phil Morton has a background in economic development. Our economic strategy will put prosperity into the heart of the community in Hambleton and he will play a significant role in that.”

Despite Government calls for public sector pay restraint, many councils in the country are handing out huge salaries to its top earners whilst cutting services. About 61 per cent of councils in the UK paid their biggest earners more than the Prime Minister, who receives £142,500.

That includes Darlington Borough Council, whose chief executive Ada Burns receives £156,720.

Hartlepool Borough Council said it had reduced its chief executive pay band from £158,000 / £168,000 to £142,000 as part of cost-saving measures.

Unison, which represents workers in the public sector, said at a time when many tax payers and council workers were struggling to pay for essentials such as food and heating, it was unacceptable for public money to be spent on such huge salaries.

Chris Jenkinson, Unison’s regional head of local government in Yorkshire said: “It is clearly wrong for the chief executive to receive such a huge pay rise on top of what is already a very high salary.

“Our members in local government have suffered a 20 per cent reduction in their incomes over the past four years caused by central government cuts and pay freezes.

“The vast majority of those members are facing a massive struggle just to pay for the basics of life – food, shelter and ever more expensive gas and electricity costs. They were forced to take strike action to support a pay rise to help them out of this poverty trap imposed by their employers.”

Source –  Northern Echo, 25 July 2014

Nurses’ leaders have branded North East health bosses’ pay rises a “disgrace”

Health trusts’ chief salaries have increased by up to 13% in the North East, new figures have revealed.

Freedom of Information requests to NHS trusts have shown that the amount paid to executive directors over the last two years has increased by anything up to £25,000 compared to just a 1.6% rise in earnings for nurses, midwives or health visitors.

Nurses’ leaders in the region have hit out at the pay rises, which come a time when not all frontline NHS staff are being given a 1% hike in wages.

The findings of the Royal College of Nursing’s report – All in it together? The Executive pay bill in England’s NHS – shows that the chief executive of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, Ian Renwick, saw his wages rise by up to 13% from £185,000-£190,000 in 2011/12 to £205,000-£210,000 in 2012/13.

Meanwhile, figures for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive, Jim Mackey, suggests that his salary rose by 9% from £225,000–£230,000 in 2011/12 to £240,000–£245,000 in 2012/13. However, the health trust has insisted that the findings are incorrect and there has been no pay increase as the rise relates to pension contributions.

Glenn Turp, Northern regional director of RCN said: “When it comes to pay, we are seeing one rule for NHS chief executives, and another for frontline nursing staff. The staggering inequity of the way NHS staff are being treated is completely unacceptable. So much for us all being in this together.

“A band three health care assistant earns between £16,200 and £19,200. But apparently, unlike NHS chief executives, the Government doesn’t think they are worth a pay rise. It’s disgraceful.”

The FOI figures come at a time when the Government has failed to honour a 1% pay rise to all frontline NHS staff this year.

Susan Johnson, 47, of Killingworth, a senior sister in critical care at North Tyneside General Hospital said: “It is a huge kick in the teeth. Day-to-day most staff are being asked to do a little bit more and we are going that one step further to continuously develop our skills. Yet chief executives are getting significant pay rises. It is demoralising for frontline staff.”

A spokesperson for Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “The salaries of our chief executive and of all our executive directors are decided by an independent nominations and remuneration committee and this is to ensure they are in line with publicly available salary benchmarking information.

“As one of the country’s top performing NHS Foundation Trusts, it is important that those with ultimate accountability are remunerated appropriately so that we can retain the very best health care leaders in the North East NHS.”

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said that, along with the rest of its staff, no director has had an increase in pay since a pay freeze was implemented in 2011/12.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “NHS Trusts, Foundation Trusts and clinical commissioning groups set pay for their very senior managers.

“We have an available budget of nearly £1bn for pay increases. We have offered to look at any proposal the unions make on how to use this money. However they have not put forward any proposals to help the lowest paid. Our door remains open if they wish to reconsider their position.

“The RCN’s figures should be used with caution – they have included exit packages for executive directors but not nurses. In fact, the latest independent evidence shows that for the third year running, there was no increase in median executive board pay.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  17 June 2014

£163,000 pay gap between the richest and poorest at Sunderland City Council

The wage gap between the highest and the lowest paid Sunderland council workers is now more than £163,000.

At the top, Sunderland City Council’s chief executive – currently Dave Smith – takes home an annual wage of £175,699 before tax, while a cleaner earns £12,435 per year for a 37-hour week.

Union representatives have now called for the difference to be slashed ahead of TUC’s Fair Pay Fortnight, which starts today.

The campaign comes as the full council is due to meet on Wednesday, when members will be asked to recommend approval of the draft pay policy statement for 2014 to 2015. If passed, it will then be formally adopted and published by the end of the month.

In justifying the salary level, a report – to be presented at the meeting – says the post is in line with a large city authority, with responsibility for the provision of wide-ranging services to 275,743 residents and a £678.8million service budget.

It reads: “The chief officer pay policy is designed to be easily understood and be transparent to the post holders, key stakeholders and the public.

“The structure and level of the pay arrangements is designed to enable the council to attract, motivate and retain key senior talent for the authority.”

Sunderland Unison branch secretary Diane Peacock said the union has campaigned for the difference in council salaries to be addressed as part of the Living Wage Campaign – which says people should be paid the amount needed for a basic standard of living.

She said: “Public sector workers have lost on average £4,000 since 2009, due to the pay freeze and increase in the cost of living.

“Many workers in the council earn below the Living Wage, forcing working families to rely on food banks, and hitting the local economy as people don’t have money to spend in it. The TUC’s Fair Pay Fortnight campaign starts next week, and our branch in Sunderland will be playing a part to urge the authority to work towards reducing this ratio and reward public sector workers for the excellent service they provide.”

Other high-earners within the authority, include the deputy chief executive, executive director of commercial and corporate services and executive director of people services, which all fall within a salary range of £117,572 and £128,063 per year. Deputy executive and corporate directors, of which there are four, are on between £81,960 and £97,327.

The lowest paid employees at Grade A are newly-appointed cleaners for the first six months of service.

Apprentices are not included in the report.

Source – Sunderland Echo,  24 March 2014

North East NHS managers get pay rises as nurses’ salaries cut in real terms

Health chiefs have received pay rises of up to 17% while nurses and health care assistants experience real term cuts topping 12%, a union has revealed.

Analysis of senior executive NHS pay by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has shown that bosses at hospital trusts in the region were awarded salary increases averaging 10.5% between 2010 and 2013, while mid-band nurses managed a paltry 0.1%. Taking into account inflation some suffered a real terms cut of 12%.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt previously warned that health service employees would face a pay freeze until March 2016 and that they might not get the 1% promised for 2014 unless unions accept greater pay restraint.

Glenn Turp, regional director for the RCN northern region, said: “Frontline nurses and health care assistants have already borne the brunt of the Government’s pay restraint policy over many years. And we know that, once inflation is factored in, NHS salaries have in fact been cut between 8% and 12% in real terms, between the period 2010 and 2014.

“The Chancellor promised to deliver a 1% pay rise this year for the front line, but the Secretary of State for Health is now trying to introduce a further pay freeze until March 2016.

“This is completely unacceptable. It is particularly galling that the Government is quite happy for NHS managers to get significant pay rises, while at the same time, the front line takes another hit.

“A 1% pay increase is a perfectly reasonable and proportionate request, particularly when put in the context of the rises in senior managers’ pay. The Government needs to stop having one rule for the frontline nursing staff, and another for senior bosses.”

The RCN northern region compared the salaries of chief executives across all North East trusts for the financial year 2010-11, with the most recent financial year data available, 2012-13.

Ian Renwick, chief executive of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, received the largest pay rise of 17% as his wages jumped from £190,000 to just under £223,000.

Jim Mackey from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust saw his salary rise 9%, from £211,000 to £230,000.

Newcastle Hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive, Sir Leonard Fenwick, is paid the most at £246,000, although the trust has insisted he has had no pay rise in three years, despite the RCN suggesting he had received a 6% increase.

A spokesperson for Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “The salaries of our chief executive and of all our executive directors are decided by an independent nominations and remuneration committee and this is to ensure they are in line with publicly available salary benchmarking information.

“As one of the country’s top performing NHS Foundation Trusts, it is important that those with ultimate accountability are remunerated appropriately so that we can retain the very best healthcare leaders in the North East NHS.”

Figures show that a mid-band 5 nurse salary in the North East increased from £23,563 in 2010/11 to just £23,589 in 2012/13, a rise of just 0.1%. In 2011-12 a pay freeze was implemented by the Government to NHS staff earning more than £21,000.

A spokesperson from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “The remuneration of our leadership team is decided independently to make sure that salaries are in line with those of other high performing NHS organisations.

“To be clear, however, along with the rest of our staff, no director at Northumbria Healthcare has had an increase in pay since the pay freeze was implemented in 2011/12.”

Last night, the Department of Health defended its decision to limit pay rises for NHS frontline staff.

A spokesperson said: “The NHS is rightly playing its role in public sector pay restraint.

“Average pay has increased by around 1%. Despite this, many NHS staff continue to be well paid for the lifesaving work they do and the majority of staff have received additional incremental pay increases of up to 6%.

“The number of admin staff, managers and senior managers in the NHS has fallen by over 21,000. This will lead to a significant reduction in managers’ costs.”

Source – Newcastle Journal  03 Feb 2014

Driven to the brink of suicide: Tyneside Mind launch short film highlighting real experiences

A powerful new film captures the desperate real experiences of being judged “fit for work” for people with mental health problems.

Tyneside Mind launched a short film highlighting the real experiences of three local people with mental health problems undergoing Work Capability Assessment.

The film ‘But I’m here for mental health – three stories of the Work Capability Assessment’ used actors to tell the genuine stories of individuals who were deemed ‘fit for work’ by Atos Healthcare despite the severity of their mental health problems and the significant barriers they face to get into work.

Local MP’s were invited to the showing which was be aired for the first time at Northumbria University Cinema last week.

The film tells the story of two men unfairly dismissed from work due to ill health and one woman whose sleep apnoea and depression prevent her from being able to work. In a particularly poignant moment in the film one man, who can’t write because he has carpal tunnel syndrome, has to admit to his elderly mother that he has contemplated suicide since losing his job as she fills in the application form on his behalf.

Another scene depicts a lady standing on a bridge thinking about ending her life because she has been told she is fit for work.

“It’s been really traumatic and very confusing for people,” said Oliver Wood, vice chairman of Tyneside Mind, who has himself now been back in work for two years after claiming benefits due to a mental health problem.

“They don’t really understand the process or how, when they are really very unwell, seeing senior hospital consultants and receiving support from mental health services, they are being declared fully fit to work because they are physically capable.”

Currently 37% of all North East appeals against decisions to change or remove Employment Support Allowance are successful, which rises to more than two in five for cases involving mental and behavioural disorders.

But Oliver points to Department of Work and Pensions figures for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear which suggest that over the past eight months an average of 2,200 claimants a month – including many with mental health problems – have had their benefits sanctioned and 1,700 a month have given up their claims.

One fear is that many people with mental health problems may be suffering in silence, due to the increasing “stigma” of being on benefits.

The film uses reconstruction to depict service users’ real stories, interspersed with verbatim quotes from Tyneside Mind service users.

With funding from The Millfield House Foundation and support from Helix Arts and Tyneside Mind, the film has been produced by Meerkat Films to help raise awareness of the devastating impact this assessment process can have on vulnerable individuals with complex and fluctuating conditions.

The release of the film also coincides with the Litchfield Review – the fourth annual Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment, which is currently used to determine eligibility for the out-of-work benefit Employment and Support Allowance.

Over a third of assessments involve people who have applied primarily due to a mental health problem and many more applicants experience a mental health problem alongside other illnesses or disabilities. Yet, the film aims to show that the assessment is not suitable for people with mental health problems, and often actually pushes many people further away from the workplace by exacerbating their mental health problems and directing them to inappropriate support and expectations.

Stuart Dexter, Chief Executive of Tyneside Mind, said: “At Tyneside Mind we help people every week with benefits-related enquiries, and our resources are increasingly stretched.

“The people we represent are still not getting a fair outcome from the Work Capability Assessment. The assessment process is not sensitive enough to recognise the impact a mental health problem can have on someone’s ability to work, and can cause a great deal of stress, especially for those who get an unfair decision and then have to go through a lengthy and costly appeals process. This film aims to highlight what it’s really like for the many individuals subjected to this process and urge the Department for Work and Pensions to urgently improve the system.”

Steve, whose name has been changed, but who speaks of his experience of the Work Capability Assessment in the film, said: “The whole assessment process was so traumatic that I really didn’t think I’d be able to recover from it, let alone talk about it.

“Unfortunately I know that there are so many others like me who have felt humiliated and had their views neglected.

“Tyneside Mind suggested I get involved with this project and I wanted to help because I feel it’s so important to raise awareness of the way vulnerable people are being treated. I hope this film will help change things so nobody else will have to endure what I did.”

Source – Newcastle Journal, 27 Dec 2013