COUNCIL chiefs will not declare the wages of town hall staff as it will breach data protection laws, it has been revealed.
Uttoxeter Town Council had seen its councillors debating whether the authority needed to be more transparent about its accounts to the public.
Councillors had been disputing whether the figures should be made clearer with regard to figures published in the accounts under the payee headings wages and combined salaries, which do not state to whom the actually money is paid to.
Four town councillors raised their opinions about the transparency of the accounts and it was decided advice needed to be sought on the issue.
After seeking advice from external bodies, councillors were told at Uttoxeter Town Council’s cabinet meeting that what they were doing was in fact correct and adhered to the Data Protection Act protecting peoples rights.
According to the Staffordshire Parish Council Association (SPCA), the town council’s current procedure was actually the correct one and the public only had the right to known the total amount that the council paid in salaries but not individual amounts.
Internal auditor Alan Topliss told the councillors that: “It is my understanding that to publish the payments made to individual employees breaches the Data Protection Act which covers personal information.
“If members continue to dispute my (and SPCA and the National Association of Local Councils) advice then I suggest we take it up directly with the commissioners at Uttoxeter Town Council’s expense.
“I have checked with three other local town council’s who confirm that they do not publish the individual payments to the clerk, responsible finance officers or other employees but group them with a cover all ‘employee payments made’ on the cheques for signature list.
“When signatories to the cheques feel the need to query the amounts paid, a listing is available but this is never in the public domain.
“Members should put their trust in the elected signatories or change them.”
After hearing this, councillors resolved they had no other option but to go with what the auditor had told them.
Andrew Riley said: “If people have got a problem with the wages then they do not have to pick up the phone but come in and speak to us about it.
“I know that my wages are private so everyone else’s should be as well.
“People can come in and have a look but they are confidential.”
Alan Noyes said his only concern is that the accounts are approved by the councillors.
He said: “It is clear that we cannot dispute peoples salary and that is that.
“At the end of the day my slight concern is that we approve the accounts and if anything goes wrong then is it the council which is left to pick up the tab.
“We have got to be a little careful of who we get to be the elected signatory as I would like to think they are not signed whilly nilly.
“It is a no brainer that we are to keep doing what we are doing.”
Uttoxeter mayor Hugh Montgomery said: “I propose a resolution that the current procedures are the correct ones and should be adhered to.”