At a time when trust in politicians and government is at an all-time low, senior pay, especially that of chief executives, has become a hot topic that is generating many column inches in the press.
Despite the views of some in the media, and groups such as the TaxPayers’ Alliance, it’s a genuinely difficult topic in which issues of trust and straightforward market considerations collide.
On the one hand, you can say that large councils such as Westminster City Council really are complex and our organisations really matter.
You can say that comparison with the prime minister’s salary is irrelevant - not least because the benefits package and future earning power are vastly different.
You can also certainly say that if a dispassionate observer saw the huge range of services and responsibilities we were held accountable for, there’s no way they would quibble over the pay - compared with some other professions.
But on the other hand, something is seriously wrong when chief executive pay becomes an issue in itself and stirs greater debate than, for example, the future of local government funding in light of today’s tough financial climate.
Local authorities have to be basically competent and only from that basis can they have any legitimacy in shaping the places they’re responsible for.
We need to be trusted both by those who need the authority to function and those who work in it.
It is, however, the breakdown of trust that has become the most worrying factor.
There’s also a point at which the ratio of pay between the average and top wage can be stretched too far.
To that end, in the coming weeks we will be publishing the names and salary details of senior officers on our council website.
We believe we will be one of the first local authorities to embrace such a transparent approach.
By being upfront and open and showing that we have nothing to hide, we hope to be in a position in which we can help end some of the public’s misgivings over how the public sector operates.
Mike More, chief executive, Westminster CC