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Monday, March 30, 2009

Double standards? Surely not!

This morning's Times newspaper reports that the English Local Government Minister, John Healey is going to demand that all the details of 'overgenerous remuneration packages' in local government for those in the top tier of their organisation are published. The rules will also cover temporary staff in senior positions:

Councils will have to state how many of their staff are being paid more than £50,000. Mr Healey said: “Councils are big organisations with a tough job – they need the best people in charge. But we’ve recently seen top salaries rising far faster than the rest of local government, with some councils swapping managers like Premier League football clubs. This salary spiral has to stop.”

Of course many of those earning in excess of £50,000 are headteachers but there are others and transparency is a good thing. Local Councils have to compete for staff with other organisations and as a result need to offer what appears to be a generous package to attract the person they want. We are talking about the management of a multi-million pound business after all. However, if the publication of these details helps to limit excess and get a better deal for taxpayers then I am not going to argue.

Surely, though the same rules must apply to Central Government. How about publishing details of all civil servants who earn more than £50,000 a year? That would certainly improve transparency in government. There does not appear to be any suggestion that this is going to happen.

In fact how about publishing MPs expenses on a monthly basis as is proposed for Welsh Assembly Members from this summer? At the moment any request for details hits a brick wall and we are having to rely on leaks for any information to make the public domain. One of the reasons why MPs are facing a steady trickle of embarrassing stories about their expenses is the excessive secrecy they apply to the whole subject, leading many to believe that they can get away with frivolous and unjustifiable claims.

Unless there is complete openness across the whole public sector then confidence in our system of government cannot be restored. Ministers should realise this and act accordingly. In the meantime singling one set of public workers out whilst they themselves remain immune from proper scrutiny just seems like double standards.
How about publishing details of all civil servants who earn more than £50,000 a year?
This surely used to be available in Whitaker's - is it no longer?

More to the point might be publishing details of "advisors", of heads of quangos, and of those at Capita and the like managing government accounts.
As well as the Civil Service the NHS and especially the military need added in. A quick look at Whitakers shows the amazing overpayment for the military brass - including the top army chaplain getting more pay than the Archbishop of Canterbury. The details of the duplicating civil servants have been removed however. This looks like some cheap, petty, vindictive populism on the part of the Minister. Might he be trying to deflect public opinion? Perish the thought.
And no prizes for guessing which welsh local authority holds the prize for the highest number of high paid officers - esp when worked out pro rata to the council tax paying population ..... clue: i can see it all around me!
Double standards? Surely not!
Don't call me Shirley
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