TOP York council officials will be paid to be on call in a new move that has sparked anger.

City of York Council's staffing and urgency committee this afternoon agreed chief officers should be paid 52p an hour when they are on standby, even if they are not called.

The total bill will cost taxpayers £3,393 a year but Conservative leader Chris Steward called the decision unnecessary.

At any time, one of the council's 17 chief officers is on standby. Each officer will receive an average of £200 a year in standby pay.

Cllr Steward said: "Do chief officers compensated as well as they are really need this extra bit of money to top up their existing salaries?"

The council said the need for chief officers to be on the rota should be made contractual, thus warranting compensation, but Cllr Steward said: "All being on rota duty for council officers means is having your phone on and a very small chance of being called in, for which they would then also get paid! It’s not like being in the fire brigade and having to limit the scope of your activities for the duration of your rota. It is possibly an annoyance, but it’s not a hardship."

He said such arrangements did not happen in the private sector and added: "In short, if your salary is around £100,000 you shouldn’t need 52p per hour to sometimes be ready to take a phone call!"

At today's meeting, councillors also voted to reduce chief officers' annual holiday leave from 34 days to 30 and to introduce a stronger performance-related aspect to chief officers' pay.

The three Labour councillors on the committee voted for the whole package, but Cllr Steward and Liberal Democract leader Keith Aspden abstained, after their request for separate votes on each strand of the package was outvoted.

Council leader James Alexander said: “As a package we have reduced the holiday entitlement of chief officers, introduced performance related pay and put in place proper cover arrangements for emergencies.

"It is disappointing Liberal Democrats have once again sided with the Conservatives and not supported this action.”

A council spokeswoman said chief officers on standby had to commit to being available at any time of night or at a weekend and said this was "quite a significant commitment", meaning they could not go far from home and needed to be able to use their own transport to travel to any incident at very short notice, impacting upon any family commitments.

There have been no call outs in the past six months. The council said the requirement for a chief officers to be on call and in coordinating emergency incidents strengthened the council.

>>> Read the committee report here