Caerphilly County Borough Council wants to spend £425,000 paying three new senior members of staff over two years as it bids to become more commercially minded.
A transformational strategy dubbed ‘#TeamCaerphilly – Better Together’ promises a new way of working where money raised through commercial ventures will be reinvested in public services.
Similar plans have been adopted in Newport and Monmouthshire, with both councils creating £50 million investment funds.
But the proposed six-figure salaries have caused concern with the council locked in a pay dispute with its chief executive, Anthony O’Sullivan, and budget cuts of £44 million expected by 2024.
Independent councillor Kevin Etheridge told the policy and resources scrutiny committee: “I have a real problem with this.
“What kind of message does this send when we’ve just increased council tax by seven per cent, rationalised millions of cuts and we’re still paying the chief executive after six years?”
The new managers will oversee commercial investment, innovation and workforce planning, and will be funded for two years initially.
Councillors heard on Tuesday, May 28 that although the salaries seemed significant in the current financial climate, it was necessary to support the council’s strategy.
Labour councillor John Ridgewell described the strategy as “long overdue” but said: “These individuals will need lots of business acumen, and I’m not sure where they’re going to come from.”
Stephen Harris, interim head of business improvement services, described the approach as investing to save, with officers expected to deliver income-generating proposals while in post.
He added: “We’ve been very risk averse in the way we’ve approached investments over the years. If we don’t make this investment, we’ll be carrying on as we’ve been doing.”
Further one-off investments could also be used to “pump-prime” service changes as the strategy progresses, although these would be subject to scrutiny and cabinet approval.
The strategy also been welcomed by trade unions, with Caerphilly Unison’s branch secretary, Lianne Dallimore, saying the new managers were essential to delivering the strategy.
Ms Dallimore said: “It is heartening to read that reducing services and staff is an approach the council wishes to resist.
“The intention is to generate income that can be reinvested in services to make sure they remain resilient, and every effort must be made to ensure these words are put into action.”
Delivery of the strategy will be supported by regeneration projects including the completion of a £261-million improvement programme to the council’s housing stock, and the £110-million second phase of the 21st Century Schools scheme.
The programme will also be supported by smaller strategies such as a new digital strategy and the controversial sports and active recreation strategy.