THE number of city council staff receiving top salaries has soared to a five-year high – sparking claims the local authority is mired in “waste and inefficiency” even though it has to save at least £148 million.
New figures show there were 486 employees earning more than £50,000 in 2014-15 – up from 461 in 2013-14 and 427 in 2010-11.
Critics today slammed the data, claiming it was evidence the council had failed to move quickly enough in its drive to restructure amid crippling budget pressures.
The city recently approved a spending plan aimed at saving £85m over the 2016-17 period.
Reduced museum opening hours, soaring parking fees and cuts to the body which manages the Capital’s public sports centres have all been rubber-stamped.
Opposition figures said the ballooning wage bill underlined how the pace of reform had been too slow.
Councillor Iain Whyte, finance spokesman for the city’s Conservatives, said: “What I suspect is driving it is having pay increases from the last couple of years.
“That will have had an impact, along with the fact that people get incremental increases each year in the council, which is not something that often happens in the private sector and elsewhere.
“The fact that there are so many people earning in the top pay bands just highlights how inefficient the council has been in streamlining its management systems and moving to customer-focused and frontline ways of working.
“There are still pay increases in the pipeline each year and incremental increases depending on whether people have got to the top of their pay scale.”
Cllr Whyte said that, in some departments, there were as many as nine management layers between staff serving residents and senior leaders.
“The council, under this administration, has not made any attempt to manage its overall staffing and management structure until this financial year,” he added.
“This has meant cuts to services rather than new ways of working – and it has meant waste and inefficiency at a time when budgets are under pressure.”
The most recently agreed city budget includes a range of measures aimed at driving down public spending.
Savings of £334,000 and £407,000 have been advised to Edinburgh Leisure for 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Leaders at the arms-length body, which runs sports centres such as Meadowbank and the Royal Commonwealth Pool, are developing a range of proposals in a bid to avoid possible service closures.
Opening hours at the City Art Centre, Museum of Childhood, Museum of Edinburgh, People’s Story, Queensferry and Writers’ Museums are also being reduced, with venues moving from a six or seven-day-a-week to a five-day-a-week operation all year round.
They will remain open at weekends.
Hourly parking fees in extended controlled zones are rising from £1.20 to £1.80, with increases also agreed for the rest of the city.
Council chiefs stressed that the salaries data did not include the impact of wage inflation over the five-year period.
A spokeswoman said: “Our staffing structure is intended to provide the best quality of service to Edinburgh citizens while offering good value for money.
“The council is currently undergoing a major programme of transformation which aims to do things differently, producing a lean and agile organisation and delivering excellent quality of service at a reduced cost.
“The design of the organisation will help to deliver this.”