Resignation over town centre pay increases

A DIRECTOR for Weston’s Town Centre Partnership (TCP) has resigned his post after claiming that ‘outrageous’ salary demands were made by the town centre manager following the success of the town’s Business Improvement District (BID) application.

In his letter of resignation Nick Cooke, manager of the Sovereign Shopping Centre, said he was ‘very disappointed’ by town centre manager Steve Townsend’s application for a pay rise of nearly 30 per cent earlier this year and by the town centre team’s successful request for an annual three per cent pay rise for three years, made three years ago.

But Mr Townsend has defended himself and his team, saying the three per cent rise had only offset the fact that they had no pension scheme or overtime payments, while his own proposed pay increase would only have put him in the same bracket as other BID managers across the country.

The BID scheme, which will fund improvements to the town centre through levy payments from town centre traders, was voted through by business owners earlier this year.

Although Mr Townsend made the application for the pay increase after the BID was voted through, it was rejected by scheme members.

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The letter, addressed from Mr Cooke to TCP chairman John Brentnall, says of the three per cent increases: “I have never known of a situation where the employees make up their own pay awards and I very much suspect that had such actions come to light in most organisations they would have led to an investigation and possible employee disciplinary action.”

The letter continues: “I believe that the apparent underhanded way in which the pay increases have been enacted and the outrageous recent salary demands both bring into question the integrity of those involved and suggests that they are so out of touch with the prevailing economic realities in which the TCP operates and the businesses they are engaged by.”

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Mr Townsend has reacted to the claims in the letter, saying that the three per cent increase was decided three years ago as part of a proposal put forward by former Weston Town Council clerk Linda Larter.

He said the proposal had been put forward as the team had no pension scheme or overtime, and claimed that Mr Cooke had been part of the board of directors that then approved the proposal.

He said the BID scheme’s consultant, Lucy Ball, had recommended his own pay increase as scheme managers in other towns had also seen their salaries increased as the rise reflected their extra responsibilities.

Mr Townsend said: “In comparison with other BID schemes, Weston offers good value.

“We don’t do this job for the money, we do it because we care about Weston.”

Mr Cooke and Mr Brentnall both declined to comment.

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