REVEALED: The ‘generous’ salaries of safeguarding board chairmen in Hampshire

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MORE than £63,000 was paid to the chair of safeguarding children boards in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in the last two years for working an average of just four days a month.

Former police officer Derek Benson earned an average of £600 a day for his services while balancing the same equally high-paid role in Worcestershire.

In Hampshire Mr Benson clocked up a salary of £14,653 and expenses of  £1,748 between April 2018 and February 2019, when he worked 24 days.

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The previous year he was paid a total of £19,603 for his work in the county, a Freedom of Information request revealed.

While sitting on the Isle of Wight Safeguarding Children Board Mr Benson was paid £27,300 between April 2017 and February 2019.

The day rate of £600 was described as a standard amount by Hampshire County Council. However, Mr Benson has previously been scrutinised in the media due to the fact he chairs three boards that are not local to his Hemel Hempstead home.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘These are very generous rates indeed.

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‘The council should ensure that those performing these important roles are adequately compensated, but at a rate that is in line with industry standards. At the end of the day, it’s taxpayers who are paying for this.’

Every local authority has a safeguarding children board. The boards are a multi-agency body that co-ordinate safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in the area. Chairs must be independent of social services.

Mr Benson said that sometimes he works ‘additional discretionary hours.’ He said: ‘Anyone who commits to a working life in public service should reasonably expect a level of informed and constructive scrutiny.

‘The fact that the safeguarding of children is of such critical importance makes accountability even more essential.

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‘At present I chair three children’s and one adults’ board, and I am aware of many other chairs who oversee more than one board.

‘The remuneration rates are determined by the partner agencies. While each post involves a commitment of two paid days per month, inevitably additional discretionary hours are spent fulfilling my duties.

‘This allows me to maintain effective contact and communication with colleagues from the respective boards and associated partners, and I look forward to continuing this important work.’

Board chairs are funded by the council, the police and the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

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A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: ‘The rate is set in line with amounts paid by other authorities and is commensurate with the level of responsibility and the experience that is required to fulfil the role.

‘There are senior professionals, up and down the country, who chair more than one local safeguarding children board. Indeed, there are often benefits, as it provides opportunities to compare areas and disseminate good practice.’

Ofsted reviewed the Hampshire Safeguarding Children Board in 2014 and rated it ‘good’ stating that ‘the local authority leads effective services that meet the requirements for good.’

Portsmouth City Council defended the £550-a-day salaries for chairs of its safeguarding boards, despite the fact that children and adult services in the city are facing large overspends.

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Both Richard John and Robert Templeton, chairs of the Portsmouth Safeguarding Children Board and Safeguarding Adult Board respectively, were paid £550 a day for their work last year.

Freedom of Information requests showed that this amounted to £16,332.36 for 30 days’ work.

At the end of 2018 it was noted by the council that its largest deficit was in children’s and adult’s social care which was predicted to overspend by £8.6m

A spokesperson from the authority said: ‘The independent chairs of both safeguarding boards play an essential role in making sure partners in the city carry out their safeguarding roles effectively, protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

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‘The role requires someone with significant experience in safeguarding, who has held a senior management position and is able to chair meetings of strategic importance and have the confidence to challenge directors and CEOs.

‘The rate of £550 per day is standard across the country for people with this level of experience. Both boards work hard to make best use of the chair’s time.’

Robert Templeton also chairs the Hampshire Safeguarding Adult Board and was on a day rate of £650, totalling £10,400 for 16 days’ work plus £713 for expenses.