THE £300,000-plus salary and costs of the man employed to sort out children’s services in Somerset have been branded ‘absolutely outrageous’ in Parliament.
And an alleged arrangement that would legally allow Peter Lewis, an interim director at County Hall, to pay less tax has been blasted as an ‘abuse of process’.
Mr Lewis had clocked up £318,500 in pay and agency fees since his arrival in 2013, it emerged in July – more than double the Prime Minister’s £142,500 annual salary.
His deputy, Kate Lovell, cost £275,000 in pay and agency fees over the same period.
They were called in after OFSTED judged Somerset County Council’s children’s services ‘inadequate’.
In a House of Commons question to Local Government Sec-retary Eric Pickles on September 8, Somerton and Frome MP David Heath said: “Somerset County Council is reported to be paying one officer £318,500 through a limited company owned by him and his wife, his deputy £275,000, and has 15 other posts paying over £96,000.
“At the same time it says it has not got the money to run our services. Does the Secretary of State think that is right?”
Responding, Mr Pickles said: “I think that is an absolutely outrageous use of public money.
“People should pay their taxes in a normal way and it is an abuse of process for that to have happened.”
A county council spokesman said the authority did not employ Mr Lewis or ‘other senior managers referred to’.
He added: “We pay a nationally-recognised specialist agency to provide the people we need – as is common practice across local authorities. All enquiries about levels of payment and how these payments are made and payments of tax should be made to the agencies involved or to HMRC.”
A spokesman for Penna, the agency that supplied Mr Lewis to the council, said Mr Lewis’ tax arrangements were private.