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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Top salaries topped up as services cut

This morning's Daily Telegraph is quite rightly exercised by news that Town hall chief executives have seen their pay packets rise by as much as £17,000 while cutting front-line services, including libraries, care for the elderly and bin collections.

They say that a survey of local authorities has established that 114 town hall chiefs earn more than the Prime Minister, despite calls from Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, for them to take a 10 per cent pay cut:

They include chief executives who won plaudits by publicly announcing that they would slash their salaries last year but have instead replenished their pay packets with bonuses, allowances and perks.

Ministers last night reacted angrily to the disclosures. Grant Shapps, the local government minister, said: "It is astonishing that it appears chief executives are finding elaborate ways to hike their pay through the back door.

"A culture of bumper pay and perks has no place in local government especially during these tough times across the public sector. Cutting pay is one thing chief executives can do to demonstrate a personal commitment to protecting the front line. I urge them to do the right thing and lead from the front."

The paper adds that of the 25 highest paid council chiefs, 16 were given pay rises.

To be fair, despite the bad impression given, this is really none of the Government's business. It is up to the Councils themselves to set the rates of pay of their employees and they are answerable to the local voters for how they do it.

Equally, the comparison with the Prime Minister's salary is not really valid as firstly, he receives much less than the job is worth for political and presentational reasons and, secondly the job is different to that of a local Council Chief Executive both in terms of function and responsibility but also in terms of the marketplace from which applicants are drawn.

Nevertheless, it is highly insensitive for any Chief Executive of a local Council to be receiving increases of this magnitude whilst their employees are having their wages reduced or frozen and services are being cut. Councils and Councillors really do need to look again at this issue.
Leaving aside the question of perception/sensitivities etc. there is surely a good case for suggesting that cutting services while doing the least harm is a much harder job than administering services in a time of plenty, and hence higher pay for those doing such a task are warranted?
Adam, check out the highly paid Chief Executive and the recent problems at Pembrokeshire County Council highlighted by external reports.
Reports in the local press, especially the Western Telegraph, may be essential reading for you !
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