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Revealed: region and gender impact on chief executive pay


Chief executives of London boroughs earn an average of more than £23,000 a year extra than their counterparts in charge of local authorities in other parts of the country, LGC research reveals.

Our analysis of top-tier councils’ lead officer roles also shows men are most likely to hold chief executive roles and get paid on average about £3,000 a year more than women.

The data, obtained from 145 councils, shows London chiefs earn £186,055 a year – by far the most. This is £31,102 more than chief executives of unitary councils who earn an average of £154,953.

Regionally, chiefs working for councils in the East of England earn the second highest (£173,763) followed by those in the south-east (£168,706). Those in the north-west (£154,662) and south west (£155,396) get paid the least.

The research, conducted in June and before a series of high-profile departures this month including Bexley LBC chief Gill Steward and Kingston upon Thames RBC chief Charlie Adan, found 59% of all top-tier chiefs were male and 41% female.

The gender divide was the greatest at county councils and London boroughs where at both types of authority almost two-thirds of chief executives were male (65%) while just 35% were female.

Graeme McDonald, managing director of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, said: “It is positive to see the gender balance in senior local government roles moving in the right direction.

“Schemes, including the Solace Women’s Network, are helping to create more diverse and therefore more effective top teams but there is much still to do. In particular, further progress is required beyond gender so that local government truly reflects the communities that we serve.”

The research comes after a major LGC survey earlier this month revealed more than half of all chief executives (51%) have considered leaving their job in the last year.

However, 71% of all chiefs surveyed – including district chiefs – said they were adequately paid for the job they do.

While 39% of chiefs said they would still be working in local government in five years’ time, just over a third (35%) said they would be retired.

Chief executives pay: average salary by council type
London £186,055
County £176,577
Metropolitan £162,216
Unitary £154,953

Ian Miller, honorary secretary of the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, said: “The data doesn’t surprise because the salaries reflect higher living costs in London.

“There’s a gap, but you’re either going to live in London where costs are high or just outside where travelling costs are high anyway.

“Looking at the data more generally, you can see that there’s a premium on the south-east compared to the south-west. Ultimately, the cost of living is higher in London than elsewhere.”

Geoff Winterbottom, principal research officer at the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities which represents northern councils, said: “That fact that executives in London earn more is not exactly a surprise, but it is disappointing.

“They don’t face greater difficulties or challenges, they don’t handle bigger budgets. So we know that there is a very high cost of living in London but intuitively you can’t think that they would have to offer that much more to attract an appropriate talent pool.”

Chief executives gender divide by council type
Council type Male Female
London 65% 35%
County 65% 35%
Metropolitan 47% 53%
Unitary 61% 39%

Readers' comments (2)

  • Not against people earning more money but what about those in work in London on much lower salaries. They do have to live in London or commute to London and commuting is expensive as has been pointed out.

    They don't get an extra £23k compared to people outside London, to help with these costs.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • remind us how much chief executives of hospitals, universities, housing associations are paid. Nobody does it for the pay, but the quality of managerial leadership is a vital element of success,

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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