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2013: Under political pressure

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The downward pressure on chief executives’ salaries continues, according to LGC’s fifth, and latest Salary Tracker.

Data on the salaries of all chief executives appointed in the latter half of 2012 shows there was an average reduction of 8% compared with predecessors’ salaries.

However, within the average reduction there is a wide variation, ranging from the 22% reduction in Tandridge DC to the 3% increase in Wirral MBC - a rise that reflects the special circumstances of an authority at risk of government intervention.

Unwritten ministerial rules about cutting pay and cutting chief executives go out the window at such times - note local government minister Brandon Lewis’ concern that Tower Hamlets LBC appoint a head of paid service as soon as possible.

While salary reduction is smaller than in previous years - see historical table overleaf - it will only be clear next time whether this is a statistical blip or a genuine untightening of the austerity belt.

Much will depend on the outcome of pay negotiations for staff more generally - even a small increase will affect the mood when more senior pay is decided.

The number of new appointees who have not been chief executives before remains in the majority, 59%, and is little changed from previous research. However, the number of internal candidates is slightly down, from 60% to 50%.

New arrangements have again fallen by the wayside as this salary tracker shows. Although Shropshire Council deleted its chief executive post, joining chiefless unitaries such as Wiltshire Council and Leicester City Council, it was alone in doing so.

There was one new joint chief executive, a shared arrangement between Barking & Dagenham LBC and Thurrock Council, but also the echoes of another sharing partnership collapsing as Richmondshire DC appointed a sole chief following the demise of its arrangement with Hambleton DC.

However, there is some excitement in the world of shared chief executives as Luton BC’s Trevor Holden takes on extra responsibilities at South Holland DC and Breckland DC.

While many may think this an impossible proposal, he argues that a three-way shared role is not only plausible but desirable. His innovative appointment is not included in this tracker’s statistics but will be covered in the next salary tracker.

In the past six months, political pressure on the costs of chief executives has widened from pay and pensions to include payoffs.

At the end of last year communities secretary Eric Pickles penned an article in the Telegraph that railed against “payoffs” for “incompetent bureaucratic barons”.

So far, so normal, but behind the rhetoric was a proposal to scrap employment protections for the three key statutory officers - head of paid service, finance and monitoring officer.

The irony is that it is not clear that scrapping these protections will attain Mr Pickles’ end. As pointed out by the two legal experts in these pages, such payoffs occur because departing staff have not been proved to be “incompetent” but are rather the casualties of political and personal clashes.

More recently the political attack has been extended to councillors, whose right to pensions and allowances has been questioned. Their pushback has been vociferous with threats of withdrawal of political support.

If they have any measure of success, perhaps officers should take a leaf out of their book?

Methodology

The percentage of internal appointees and first-time chief executives is based on all appointments listed in this edition of the salary tracker. The average salary reduction is based on like for like appointments and does not include deleted or shared posts. Brent LBC and Braintree BC appointments have not been included as they said a Freedom of Information request would be necessary. Blackburn with Darwen DC, Mole Valley DC and Newport City Council have not been included as the information was not available as we went to press.

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