Camden Council chief exec: ‘I’m proud to earn £73k less than my £236k-a-year predecessor’
08:00 12 June 2014
Justin W Thomas
Camden Council’s chief executive told a panel of MPs he was proud to have reduced chief officers’ pay and to be personally earning £73,000 less than his predecessor, as he appeared before a Commons select committee.
"I think when we were making the savings and cuts that we had to make, it was right we gave a signal to the local community"
Mike Cooke was in front of the communities and local government parliamentary select committee on Wednesday last week to be quizzed about pay for local government sector senior staff.
In November 2011, Mr Cooke was promoted from deputy chief executive of the council to replace Camden’s Moira Gibb, who stepped down after eight years.
Ms Gibb received a total of £236,000 in the year before her departure, while Mr Cooke earned £163,000 as Camden’s head last year.
But he said he did not feel “hard done-by” as a result of the council’s squeeze on chief officers’ pay over the past three years.
“I’m very proud to be associated with a reduction in the overall pay levels – by 10 per cent – of chief officers in Camden and to be a chief executive that started the reduced pay level,” Mr Cooke told the committee.
“I think when we were making the savings and cuts that we had to make, it was right we gave a signal to the local community, led politically and supported by officers.
“I feel proud of being associated with that so I don’t feel envious of people whatsoever.”
Mr Cooke was joined at last week’s hearing by council leader Cllr Sarah Hayward, as well as Wandsworth Council chief executive Paul Martin and leader Cllr Ravi Govindia.
Committee members were particularly interested in the disparity in earnings between Camden’s chief executive and his counterpart in Wandsworth, who earned almost £255,000 last year, including pension contributions and other payments.
But Camden’s Mr Cooke conceded he was “considered to be a very inexperienced chief executive” compared to Mr Martin in Wandsworth, who he described as “extremely experienced, very capable and a very well-thought of chief executive”.
Cllr Hayward insisted that the pay of senior council officers was not a prominent concern for residents in Camden.
She told the committee: “Chief officer pay has never come up on the doorstep as an issue to me.
“I’ve never had a piece of correspondence about it and I’ve just had a pretty resounding result at the ballot box. I think overall my residents are quite happy.”