THE government minister in charge of councils has slammed Gosport for giving its chief executive a bumper pay rise.
Local government minister Kris Hopkins MP branded the £8,000 boost exorbitant and criticised the way councillors awarded the cash.
Gosport Borough Council’s top officer Ian Lycett is now on £99,000 a year after a vote last week.
The decision was not advertised in advance, as is usual for council meetings, but was instead placed on the table during the meeting.
Mr Hopkins, who visited the area last month, said: ‘Exorbitant pay rises like this at the taxpayers’ expense just aren’t on, especially when rank-and-file council staff face a mere one per cent pay rise.
‘This is why we have given councillors the democratic power to stop senior salaries pay deals like this from going through without proper scrutiny and an open vote at full council.
‘Councillors should be using these powers, rather than slip through such deals on the side.’
Councillor Mark Hook, the Tory leader of the council who tabled the award, has defended his actions.
He said: ‘It’s disappointing when a minister has chosen to speak out in public without finding out the facts first.
‘If he’d taken the time and trouble to contact us we would have at least told him the reasons why.
‘Ministers should look at the pay rises they award themselves.’
Cllr Hook argued Mr Lycett works 50-hour weeks and has taken on more responsibility.
Mr Lycett was paid just over £91,000 before.
Cllr Hook added the decision was made at an open committee.
As reported in The News, the Liberal Democrat opposition leader Peter Chegwyn said the pay award was disgusting and that it was sneaked through.
He has welcomed Mr Hopkins’ intervention.
Cllr Chegwyn said: ‘That’s a damning criticism as you can get from a Conservative minister to a Conservative council.
‘It just shows the arrogance of the council, ignoring their own minister, let alone the public.’
Councillors can call in decisions for scrutiny.
Cllr Chegwyn said it is pointless to do so as Tories have a majority on the committee, meaning they could vote down any change.
Labour leader Dennis Wright said democracy is suffering.
He said: ‘Democracy in Gosport appears to have gone out of the window. The way that this was done was quite wrong in my opinion.
‘We’ve also got staff claiming benefits because their wages are so low.’