Bosses at two Welsh councils earn more per year than UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, new research has shown.

Right-wing pressure group TaxPayers' Alliance has released its yearly Townhall Rich List, which pulled together the top earning executive staff at councils throughout the UK between 2020-2021.

Deborah Driffield, Cardiff Council's assistant director of children's services, topped the list here in Wales, making £221,186 per year.

Ms Driffield was followed by former Pembrokeshire Council chief executive Ian Westley - who was on a salary of more than £193,000 before his November 2020 departure and subsequent £95k payoff - and Cardiff Council's chief executive, Paul Orders, who made £185,385 per year.

The three were each on higher salaries than UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is paid £161,401.

Chief executives at Rhondda Cynon Taff, Swansea and Carmarthenshire earned more than First Minister Mark Drakeford, whose pay stands at just under £148k.

Council executive staff are not publically affiliated with any political party, and are separate from elected councillors.

Hover over your area on the map below to see how much the chief executive at your council made between 2020-2021.

 

The figures comes just days after "bleak Friday", when energy bill rises of around 54 percent kicked in for households across the country, along with increases to council tax and some phone and broadband service prices.

Wales is expected to fare worse than most, with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimating that a quarter of people in Wales are already living in poverty.

Of the top-paying Welsh councils for executives, a number have also faced controversy in recent months and years.

A document published last month by the Cardiff Capital Region - a group made up of ten councils in south east Wales, including Cardiff and Rhondda Cynon Taf - marketed the area to potential investors as a "clear cost advantage", based on the fact that graduates in Cardiff earn significantly less than in cities such as Glasgow, London, and Birmingham.

READ MORE: WATCH: Cardiff Council leader grilled on City Region low pay boast, Maindy Velodrome

Last week, meanwhile, waste collection staff at Cardiff Council voted to strike over an alleged "toxic" culture of workplace bullying, health and safety concerns, "unfair targeting" of Unite trade union representatives and "misuse" of temporary agency workers, with some staff allegedly kept on insecure agency contracts for up to 15 years.

Cardiff Council insists that these claims are "unsubstantiated" and that bullying allegations are taken "seriously".

Dates for the strike action have not yet been announced.

In 2020, concerns were raised over Cardiff's Youth Offending Service (YOS), notionally in place to support children and young people who have either committed a criminal offence or are at risk of doing so. 

The YOS, among the responsibilities of Deborah Driffield, was given the lowest possible score - 0/46 - by the HMP Prisons Inspectorate in summer 2020, with inspector Justin Russell commenting that its management board had "limited understanding" of the challenges faced by children coming under their supervision.

Improvements were reported at a follow-up inspection later that year.

The departure of Pembrokeshire chief executive Ian Westley in November 2020 triggered an investigation, after the council approved a £95,000 termination payoff to Westley.

The payoff was found to be "contrary to law" by the auditor general for Wales, but Pembrokeshire Council voted in February to take no further action.

Gritters working for Carmarthenshire Council took strike action in January, over the requirement for workers to be on call overnight with no pay or guaranteed work.

Payment for councillors is set by the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales (IRPW) which has recommended that councillors in Wales get a £16,800 basic salary from May this year – a rise of 16.9 per cent from the current £14,368.

“These are difficult times for many of the people and communities of Wales and councils across the country are doing everything they can to support them," a spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) told The National.

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"Councils in Wales need strong leadership in the best of times and have needed that more than ever as local services continue to respond to the pandemic and new challenges caused by the war in Ukraine. 

"Senior officers are instrumental in co-ordinating the local and national responses and run businesses employing thousands of people with large budgets of hundreds of millions of pounds."

The WLGA pointed out that Deborah Driffield's post has, in the past year, been made a "Director" level role at a pay rate of £132,822 per year - though this rate does represent a pay rise of around £2,000 for the council's now five other directors at that level.

Chief executive Paul Orders, too, has seen his pay rise to £188k.

“Councils in Wales are committed to meeting the senior pay transparency guidance produced by Welsh Government in addition to needing to refer any changes in chief executive pay to the Independent Remuneration Panel," the WLGA added.

"All produce Pay Policy statements which are fully published and can be found on local authorities’ websites.

"These are a far more accurate reflection of salaries in councils than set out in the TPA’s report.”

TaxPayers' Alliance is a right wing pressure group which campaigns for lower taxes and reduced public sector spending. Uncertainty surrounds how the group is funded.

In 2018 it admitted to illegally sacking and launching a smear campaign against whistleblower Shahmir Sanni for revealing unlawful overspending in the Brexit referendum campaign.

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