THE managing director of Brentwood Borough Council has been handed an inflation-busting pay deal worth up to £10,000 extra a year.
The Gazette can reveal that Alison Crowe's basic wage has increased from £97,000 to £102,000 per annum, while her annual bonus is now £15,000, up from £10,000 last year.
The decision to award Ms Crowe's new deal was taken by Conservative council leader Louise McKinlay after consulting the chairmen of her various committees.
The package was agreed in April, although details only emerged this week after questioning from the Gazette.
Ms Crowe became the authority's most senior officer at the end of March when it dispensed with the services of Joanna Killian, who, at the time, had been the chief executive of both Brentwood Borough Council and Essex County Council.
The borough council paid County Hall £30,000 a year for Ms Killian's services and cited the need to save money as the reason for her being axed.
The news also comes against the backdrop of the council's ongoing single status review, which could see the wages of some of its employees cut.
The award of the improved pay deal was greeted with dismay by pressure group the TaxPayers' Alliance, who said: "Brentwood Borough Council is completely out of touch to be awarding its managing director this inflation-busting pay rise.
"This pay increase – on top of an already very generous salary – will undermine Alison Crowe's moral authority to make necessary spending cuts."
Tory councillor Keith Parker, a panel chairman, said: "It was brought up at chairs and there was a feeling that there should have been no increase at all, however, my common sense told me that probably wasn't practical.
"We are still paying £20,000 less than we were in the first place."
David Kendall, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Brentwood Borough Council, said: "I'm very disappointed with the way this has been handled.
"The collective opposition have been kept completely in the dark on this one."
He added: "Once again, this makes a mockery of the term openness and transparency which the administration keeps spouting."
Labour group leader Mike Le-Surf said: "How out of touch can one council be with the real world?
"The timing of this increase is highly inappropriate."
Mrs McKinlay said Ms Crowe needed to receive more remuneration because she had taken on more responsibilities.
"Neighbouring local authorities pay their chief executives substantially more and we have chosen not to do that and just have a managing director instead." she added.
"We have to be realistic – it is about getting the right balance between retaining talent and getting value for money for the taxpayer."
Mrs McKinlay also confirmed that Ms Crowe would not receive a pay rise next year.
The Gazette asked Ms Crowe if she was satisfied with her new pay deal but she declined to comment.