Published: 4 February 2010
by RICHARD OSLEY
COUNCIL staff have been handed £1million worth of bonuses and secret sweeteners, the New Journal can reveal.
Officials considered to be doing good work are being singled out for so-called “retention” bonuses, some amounting to an entire month in extra wages.
The aim is to slow down the turnover of Town Hall staff and block other local authorities from poaching their best people.
In most cases staff who do not get the added bonuses are unaware that their colleagues have benefited from the system and there were calls this week for more “transparency” about the payments.
Although the strategy has been used in other areas of London, new details of how Camden uses the rewards show the council is particularly fond of retention bonuses and recruitment sweeteners, one-off payments given to new staff to lure them into working for the council.
Politicians have now warned they must be open to greater scrutiny.
Camden is already known in local government circles as an authority where senior staff generally enjoy favourable terms and conditions.
The New Journal revealed in September how the chief executive and the inner circle of managers collect performance-related bonuses each year, in total to the tune of around £175,000.
Labour finance spokesman Theo Blackwell said: “When these payments are made, there has to be far greater transparency as to who’s getting them and why.”
A council report on the payments discussed at the Town Hall last week said: “In the last year over 900 staff received some form of recruitment or retention payment at an overall cost of £1million.”
It added that the system had particularly been used in the recruitment of social workers, where the job market had become stretched with a lack of applicants.
“Recruitment and retention payments have proved an important factor in helping us attract and retain scarce skills and valuable staff. We envisage that we will need to make less use of such payments in future, but they will still be needed to an extent,” the report said.
Conservative group leader Councillor Andrew Marshall, the deputy leader in the Liberal Democrat-Tory coalition running the council, said: “I would like to see it operate more like the private sector with greater flexibility to how we pay staff and how they are rewarded for good.
“We have to keep an eye on these things but we must stay competitive to ensure we attract the best staff.”