Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: It’s time to crack down on council fat cats

What the papers say: It's time to crack down on council fat cats
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Theresa May’s £150,000 pay packet is dwarfed by that of many council employees up and down the country. Nearly 600 council staff now earn more money than the Prime Minister each year, and a report from the Taxpayers Alliance reveals that thousands of local authority employees earn six-figure sums. With many councils talking up fears about funding social care - and upping tax to pay for it - how much longer can these wages be justified?

For many households facing rising council tax bills, the news that 539 council staff earn more than the PM will come as ‘a further gut-wrenching blow’, says the Daily Mail. The paper reports that nearly 2,500 council workers earn £100,000 a year or more - with Southwark alone handing 44 staff six-figure pay packets. ‘How can council leaders’, asks the Mail, ‘justify ANY pay rises for senior bureaucrats?’ The paper says that if bills for council tax payers are going up, all of the cash should go on ‘bolstering threadbare services for the elderly, not lining officials’ pockets’. The Mail concludes its editorial by saying that the incoming head of the Met Police has set an example by taking £40,000 less in salary than her predecessor. ‘What a contrast with the endless grasping of Britain’s town hall fat cats,’ the paper says.

The Sun agrees, pointing to the ‘repugnant’ £625,570 pay packet earned by Sunderland City Council’s chief last year. This ‘greed’ is ‘obscene’ at any time, argues the paper - let alone ‘when the social care system is on its knees’. But the Sun says that this example is far from exceptional, and asks how up and down the country council bosses are getting away with being paid so much. To make matters worse, argues the Sun, many councils have the ‘brass neck’ to ‘whine about being short-changed by Whitehall’. ‘Councils all need to make savings,’ concludes the paper. ‘They should start at the top and work down’.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph says that Vladimir Putin ‘must be ruing the day he ever decided to give his backing to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’. Russia is now facing the prospect of tougher sanctions and the G7 leaders appear united in cracking down on both Syria and Russia in the wake of the chemical weapons attack which killed dozens of civilians. For Russia, the looming prospect of sanctions could not come at a worse time: the country’s economy is ‘already struggling’, says the Telegraph. And for Putin, further economic doom and gloom could put paid to his hopes of being re-elected as president next year. This about-turn from G7 countries represents a ‘dramatic turn-around in Moscow’s fortunes’, says the Telegraph, which points out that only a week ago ‘Mr Putin was seen by Washington as a key player in efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict’. Now, the Telegraph says, ‘he looks more like an international pariah’.

But we still need Putin, argues the Times. The Russian President might have angered the international community with his support for Assad, yet there remains a way back for him, argues the paper, which says ‘if and when Mr Putin helps to replace Assad with a credible power-sharing government acceptable to the Syrian people, then it might be possible to readmit him to the G7 forum’. But action in Syria won’t suffice; Putin must also make it clear that he will ‘stop destabilising Ukraine’ as well. For now, argues the Times, Britain - and the other G7 countries - must spend the coming weeks showing Russia ‘that it must take responsibility for the behaviour of Assad’. After all, ’by becoming Assad’s main protector,’ the Times argues, ‘Russia also took on the duty of declaring time on a war criminal’.