Page last updated at 16:35 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 17:35 UK

Councils to publish executive pay

Ministers have expressed concerns about council chief's wages

Rules forcing English councils to publish chief executives' salaries are to be introduced by the end of 2009.

Minister Rosie Winterton said it would affect 2,500 officials and people had the right to see the full picture.

About 20 council bosses are thought to earn more than the prime minister's £194,000 salary.

The body representing council chiefs said it was advising them to be more open about pay - but the Tories said the rules did not go far enough.

The new rules would force up to 475 local authority bodies, including Transport for London and police and fire authorities, to detail the salaries, bonuses, pensions, perks and compensation pay-offs of their most senior staff.

'Mood music'

In a speech to the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace) in Brighton, Ms Winterton said: "In the current climate, the public rightly expect greater value for money from local services.

"We are setting some pretty clear mood music about making sure every taxpayer's pound is worked as hard as possible.

"Councils must be able to show they are providing a fair deal on pay in an open and transparent way - the public have the right to see the full picture."

If nobody knows what you do, how do you expect them to assess your value?
Spokesman for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives

She said the new disclosure standards would bring councils into line with standards required of civil servants, the government and private sector organisations.

Shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman welcomed the measures but said they did not go far enough.

She said: "There needs to be far more openness and transparency in the public sector. All town hall spending on goods and services over £500 should be published online to give the press and public the power to scrutinise and stop wasteful spending."

Average pay for local government workers has gone up £6,000 in seven years, but the average pay of chief executives has risen by £40,000, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

A spokesman for Solace said its members had been told it was not worth jousting with journalists and taxpayers' lobby groups and better to publish salaries on their website.

Talented people

He said this would be an opportunity for them to explain to the public what their job involved.

"If nobody knows what you do, how do you expect them to assess your value?," he added.

John Ransford, chief executive of the Local Government Association, said it was right that chief executive pay was subject to public scrutiny.

"Councils need talented people in top management positions and in deciding salary levels they have to balance this with other policy objectives, including the need, in a tight financial situation, for all salaries to be demonstrably reasonable," he added.

Ministers have been concerned that chief executives' salaries appear to leap whenever they move to a new job, with little evidence that the performance of the local authority improves.

Earlier this year, Communities Secretary John Denham asked the Audit Commission to look at so-called "boomerang bosses" who walk away with huge payouts, straight into the next job.

He has also said he wanted to look at ways to limit pension entitlements of the highest earners.

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