HEALTH bosses have defended a decision to give chief officers massive pay rises worth tens of thousands of pounds.
Five of the top six bosses at Lancashire Care NHS Trust – which governs mental health care in Lancashire – have enjoyed hikes in their pay packets of between £10,000 to £20,000 in the last year.
Chief executive of the trust Prof Heather Tierney-Moore was the highest paid member of staff last year at £192,500 after her pay band was raised from £175,000-£180,000 in 2010/2011 to £190,000-£195,000
The average wage for rank and file staff at the trust, which also runs community nursing, is £25,000.
The salary rises for top bosses – revealed within the trust own annual report – has enraged health watchdogs in Blackpool and brought questions from the town’s MPs.
Labour Coun John Jones, who sits on Blackpool Council’s health scrutiny committee, said the sums involved were “ludicrous” in times of austerity and showed the board was “out of touch” with the current climate.
But bosses, who refused to reveal the exact figures all senior staff were paid, defended the figures saying the trust had taken on an extra £120m worth of work in the community and there would be no further pay increases this year.
Coun Jones, who has previously criticised Lancashire Care Trust over delays to the new mental health facility planned at Whyndyke Farm, Marton, while partially closing the previous Parkwood unit at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said: “In these days of austerity it seems quite amazing these kind of salaries are being paid at a trust within the NHS.
“They’ve been dragging their feet with the Whyndyke Farm project and also there’s been the closure at Parkwood.
“There’s a cost implication in that and I’m absolutely astounded by these sums. The board are out of touch with what’s going on.
“When you’ve got a workforce whose average pay is £25,000, and who are working really hard, in this day and age of austerity to award yourselves £20,000 pay rises is appalling.”
According to the trust’s report, finance director David Tomlinson’s wages were increased from the £110,000-£115,000 bracket to somewhere between £130,000 and £135,000, workforce director Joanne Marshall’s pay range went from £90,000-£95,000 to £110,000 to £115,000 while nursing director Patrick Sullivan’s went from £90,000-£95,000 to £95,000-£100,000.
In comparison the chief executive of Blackpool Council is paid £100,000.
Gordon Marsden, Labour MP for Blackpool South, said: “In the present climate the salaries do seem extremely large.
“They need to justify why they are being paid that much money.
“All new appointments in this area should be made at a lower lever and anyone with existing appointments on their salaries need to explain how they are justified.”
Paul Maynard, Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, added: “I’m sure public sector workers would want to be confident that senior executives are not receiving disproportionate salaries.
“I’m sure the governing bodies of the trust will want to look at the performance of the senior executives over the last year to find out if they warrant their salaries.
“They are not awarding themselves the salaries, it’s the governing bodies making the decisions, so this should be taken into account.”
Trust bosses today justified the pay rises saying the managers now handled a budget of £311m having taken on £120m of extra work and that the remuneration decision had been made in line with a recent Government review on public sector pay deals.
A spokesman said: “The pay referenced in the annual report is for the period 2011-12.
“During that period Lancashire Care Foundation Trust took responsibility for an additional £120m of community services, significantly increasing the size and complexity of the organisation.
“The board commissioned an independent review of executive salaries following the decision not to increase the size of the board.
“The review made comparisons with similar sized organisations from a range of sectors and considered the recent Hutton Inquiry review of salaries.
“The outcome of this work resulted in a complexity element added to executive salaries which is only payable subject to satisfactory performance in line with one of the Hutton recommendations.
“In 2012-13 the remuneration committee has agreed there will be no increase on base salaries, complexity elements and no increment payments for executives. A review of the remuneration report is included within the statutory audit of the financial statements of the trust.
“Once again this year our auditors are satisfied we are compliant in our preparing of this report and as such we do not have to release any further details of our senior managers remuneration.”
But Coun Jones says he now intends to investigate further.
He added: “I will have to discuss this with the health scrutiny committee and we’ll probably have to take it up with the board.
“When you think about the service which it is attached to and all the problems we’ve got with looking at cuts within the service, then this is absolutely ludicrous.”
The latest pay deal comes after there was outrage when it was revealed Lancashire’s ambulance bosses had given themselves a 20 per cent pay rise while freezing salaries for frontline staff.
North West Ambulance Service, last month, justified pay rises to its chief officers by saying a restructuring of operations has allowed them to expand some salaries by losing staff with other managers taking on their responsibilities.