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Watford Community Housing Trust bosses £400k salary pot criticised
A former board member of Watford Community Housing Trust has called for it to cut the £430,000 it pays its four top earners, describing the figure as "absolutely ridiculous".
Chris Blackett, who was also the chair of the trust’s Gateway Committee, said tenants would be "appalled" learn of the amounts top trust figures were making while they faced rent increases and steep new service charges.
The trust has defended the salaries of its directors arguing they represent "exceptional value for money".
Diane Lee, the chair of the not-for-profit trust, also said its board had looked at the pay of its top team as part of its corporate structure review but were not proposing any changes.
Over the last few months employees at the trust have had to reapply for the jobs as it undertakes cost-saving restructure.
Costs are also set to rise for tenants, who were informed last year that new service charges were due to be phased in over five years from April.
The new charges cover communal services and which the trust says costs it £2.5million to fund, and could see tenants paying up to an extra £600 a year.
Mrs Blackett, of Haines Way, said: "I think tenants would be absolutely appalled if they knew £400,000 was being paid for four people. It is an absolutely ridiculous amount of money. It is only a small business.
"I think the tenants will be very interested in the remuneration of directors. With the service charges and the increases in rent and they are sitting there earning that amount of money - I think people will be appalled.
"I think if you are restructuring a business, if you are making cuts, you expect it to be across the board, whether it is the chief executive or the cleaner."
The trust’s accounts show that for the last financial year (April 2011 to March 2012) the top four earners at the trust made a total of £437,000.
Top of the pile was chief executive Tina Barnard whose total pay packet came to £131,000, including £107,000 basic pay, £8,000 in allowances and £16,000 pension contributions.
Next was Gareth Lewis, director of property and new business, whose total £110,000 pay comprised of £93,000 basic pay, £8,000 allowances and £9,000 pension contributions.
The third highest paid was the director of neighbourhood and housing services Ruairi McCourt, who earned £109,000, including £83,000 basic salary, £7,000 allowances and £9,000 in pension contributions.
The lowest paid was Julie Robinson, the trust’s director of resources, who earned £97,000 in total, including her £84,000 basic pay, £7,000 allowances and £6,000 pension contributions.
The trust’s accounts showed Miss Robinson took up the post in April 2011 and her predecessor, Rosemary Farrar earned a higher overall salary of £115,000 in the previous years.
The accounts also revealed that Mr Lewis’s and Mr McCourt’s overall pay went up by £21,000 and £8,000 respectively from the 2011- 10 financial year. Ms Barnard received an overall pay rise of £1,000 from the previous year.
Diane Lee, Chair of Watford Community Housing Trust, said: "The trust’s independent board and HR committee looked at all roles in the trust during our corporate structure review, including those of the executive management team. We are not proposing any changes to their roles or their remuneration.
"The executive management team are responsible for running the largest community business in Watford and Three Rivers, with responsibility for nearly 5000 homes, and their salaries are completely in line with other housing associations of the same size.
"Given their skills, expertise and level of responsibility they provide exceptional value for money."