Monday, 4 January 2010

'Cooncillor' Pay Freeze

A two year pay freeze for Councillors has been mooted, with some even going so far as to suggest that responsibility allowances are cut by 20%.

Personally, I'm pretty relaxed at the possibility of a pay freeze, and I suspect that it is going to happen whether anyone complains or not.

There is no question that money is extremely tight and hard choices will have to be made.

That said, any savings made by freezing the pay of local councillors may well count for nothing if senior (and I stress senior, as opposed to those on the more modest end of the coluncil pay ladder) are awarded a pay rise.

Iain Macwhirter states that over 800 public sector employees now earn more than the Prime Minister and comments on his blog: "Pen pushing bureaucrats in dowdy council offices, many of them virtually unemployable, are now strutting around like Fred Goodwin shooting their cuffs and demanding bonuses to give them an ‘incentive’."

Having been threatened with a visit from the Standards Commissioner for publicly criticising two council officers previously, I'll make no comment on Mr Macwhirter's thoughts.

The honorary secretary of the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives (ALACE) has hit back stating that the poor dears were becoming the 'whipping boys' of some sections of the media and politics.

She further added that the message sent by a pay freeze was that bosses were 'less valued' than their staff. "It's not about the money, it's the principle" she added.

Elsewhere, a threat to cap council pensions follows claims that some long serving staff have accumulated £150,000 per year pension entitlements through the final salary-linked Local Govt pension scheme.

It will be interesting to see what happens next. A look through the job section of the 'MJ' magazine 'the management journal for local authority business' shows some fairly high salaries, up to almost £200k in one example. It is debatable whether the public sector can sustain high salary levels in the face of such economic hardship, although previously, it has been argued that generous salaries were required to attract talented individuals from the private sector. I don't know how succesful this strategy has been however.

It may be that those who feel that now would be a good time re-organise local government in Scotland are right. It has been suggested that merging local authorities would bring economies of scale and substantial savings to the public purse. It's a debate that I think we are edging towards, and we may need to have it sooner rather than later.

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