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Stop future excessive pay rises for senior council staff

12 September 2014

Stop excessive pay rises for senior council staff - Read more

The Communities and Local Government Committee (CLGC) has urged councils to put a stop to future excessive pay rises for senior council staff members.

In a report published by the CLGC, titled local government chief officers’ remuneration, the committee has urged councils to continue keeping pay down, as economic conditions improve, for senior staff as it did in recent tough economic years.

The CLGC has also asked that councils act to ensure there is no return to inflation-busting pay increases, such as 75% pay rises that were commonly seen in the first decade of this century.

Councils must also seek better market information to make sure they are not paying over the odds and develop more robust appraisal systems to get value for money from their top staff.

The CLGC recommends local councillors closely scrutinise decisions on senior pay, since it is action by local communities that has often been effective in halting proposed excessive pay rises.

Clive Betts MP, Chair of the LGC, said: ‘It is unacceptable for senior figures to be handed significant increases simply for doing their jobs and we welcome the pay restraint the vast majority of councils are now demonstrating. However, as economic conditions improve, councils need to strengthen local control of pay by developing more robust powers for democratic scrutiny.'

The CLGC has also stated that it condemns pay-offs to failing senior council staff, calling on councils to respond to public concern by publishing information promptly about pay-offs made to departing top officers.

Mr Betts added that ‘[we have] all seen cases where an underperforming council chief appears to be pocketing a substantial pay-off as an incentive to leave. … We call on the government to require councils to publish details of any redundancy or ex-gratia payments made to departing senior staff within a month of the decision to award it’.

Local authorities need accurate data to help inform their decisions on the pay level needed to attract good candidates. The CLGC recommends the Local Government Association (LGA) to work with local employers’ bodies to fill an information gap on regional pay and recruitment trends and is concerned that many councils do not have robust appraisal systems for senior staff in place, thereby lacking an established link between senior officer pay and performance.

The CLGC adds that through its inquiry, it is also clear that many local authorities do not carry out rigorous appraisals of senior staff performance. Further, although rare in the council sector, bonuses shouldn’t be paid at all where someone is simply doing their job.  

The LGA needs to publish new guidance to help local authorities better appraise senior officers. To strengthen their accountability to the communities they serve, councils should also publish information on the appraisal method they use.

The report acknowledges that innovative approaches such as sharing a chief executive with other local councils can reduce overall salary bills and that councils should consider measures which can deliver best value for their communities.

However, the CLGC does not support merging the posts of leader of the council and chief executive since each has a distinct role, with the robust challenge between the two posts helping to safeguard effective services for local communities.

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