Chief executives on higher salaries should expect greater responsibilities and less job protection, according to Employers' Organisation executive director Rob Pinkham.
Mr Pinkham wants chief executives' salaries to be proportionate to their responsibilities, with job security tied to fulfilling these duties. His remarks have drawn fire from chief executive leaders.
Last month, calls by the EO to streamline rules governing the suspension of chief executives led to accusations it was looking to make senior sackings easier ( LGC, 2 July).
Mr Pinkham said council chief executives could be viewed either as 'local civil servants' with low pay and high protection or as 'part of a management team' with higher pay and less protection. He said the two extremes were on a continuum.
Councils already operate in this way but the relationship between pay, responsibility and job security needed to be more clearly defined, he claimed.
He said: 'We need an effective use of appraisal for chief executives, where they are set objectives then are judged by whether they have achieved those objectives.'
Honorary secretary of the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives Alastair Robertson said: 'I don't think pay and job protection should be related. Job protection is there as much to protect councils as individuals because it allows for a system that promotes integrity.'
Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers director general David Clark said: 'Performance of council chief executives should not be linked purely to local political objectives because the responsibility for decision making lies with executive members.
'In many situations it is the executive members who refuse to make decisions, which make objectives impossible to achieve.'
He added: 'There can be a link between pay and performance if the members choose it. But then the performance they measure must be performance of the chief executive, not of the political process.'
West Lancashire DC chief executive Bill Taylor agreed, saying a poor performing council did not necessarily mean a poor chief executive.
He said: 'No one is asking for a job for life, but we are asking for a particular protection from political shenanigans.'
Wandsworth LBC chief executive Gerald Jones said chief executives were
already exposed to much greater risk
because of government target regimes, and this should be better reflected in their salaries.
He said: 'Councils like Wandsworth are a£700m business. Chief executives have to manage that business and at the same time accept responsibility for meeting a host of performance and service
He added: 'The price of failing to meet government targets is much higher than ever before.'