Colleagues – you may have read a topical piece in the Sunday Telegraph about Local Government Chief Executives’ pay over the weekend (Sunday Telegraph, 5 October 2008). The article provided a commentary on the so-called 50 top paid Local Government chief executives and was written in the style of condemnation of how big a bill the Council Tax payer is footing. In fairness, the article was balanced by quotes from Paul Coen Chief Executive of the Local Government Association where he put into perspective the amount of responsibility chief executives have in terms of people, budget and other resources – as well as the challenges many face in trying to provide services to deprived communities.
Like many articles in the press some of it has to be read with caution and I don’t think the list of the alleged top 50 earners was necessarily accurate as a league table…some big names and Councils seemed to be missing to me. Probably what would have been accurate would have been to say this was the top 50 earners of those Local Authorities that responded to the Freedom of Information Act disclosure request from the Sunday Telegraph.
In simple terms it’s correct to say that senior pay in Local Government has increased beyond the rate of inflation over recent years. However, in my view, this simply boils down to the old Keynesian economic law of the balance of supply and demand. Securing the supply of scarce talent carries a price tag. There aren’t many people out there in the employment market with the skills set to run a Local Authority. Having the leadership skills to run multi-million pound organisations that have a huge array of stakeholder interests to balance is certainly no cake walk and compared to the level of skill, complexity and responsibility in the private sector, or public industry, the pay of a Local Authority Chief Executive is still very modest.
I can remember a chief executive saying to me once that unlike other sectors he’d worked in, being a Local Government Chief Executive wasn’t just a job – it was a way of life; you’re almost married to the job where Members can – quite literally – contact you day, night, or weekend. So the ‘fat cat’ often doesn’t even have the chance to skim the cream off the milk – they’re too busy.
Dean Shoesmith – Vice President (Elect) PPMA