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Councillor gravy train – the sequel…

February 19th, 2010 Posted in UK Politics by

cashBack in April 2009 I wrote a piece “Councillors join the gravy train”  pointing out the ludicrous rise in councillors remuneration in recent years.  

Now, despite a demand from the Government for councils to allow public scrutiny of senior local authority officials pay and benefits, Councils have resisted the order. The reason  – it  would lead to a public outcry- that “it could lead to personalised attacks” … officials “families could be at risk of abuse” etc etc. I don’t know about you but that has eyebrows raised in my house  – just how big a scandal is this if Councils think the public reaction to seeing who is being paid exactly what, will be that extreme ? My oh my what are they hiding? Just how big IS this latest scandal.

It was obvious. Following the MP expenses scandal,  public service officials income and benefits needed greater transparency. As part of a “cleaning up of politics” process, the Government, rightly, sought to make public the pay and benefits, allowances and pay-offs of local authority officials earning over £50,000. Its much harder to pay over-inflated salaries and above inflation pay rises when the voters can see what you are doing and who is getting what.

So how come the Government has apparantly backed off from this demand? Following, the frankly ludicrous bleating of councils as to why they should not let the voters see the figures, they have somehow won ! The government has accepted that only those local government officials earning over £150,000 will be identified (thats still over 100 of them). Allowing thousands of senior local authority officials to continue hiding behind anonymity.

And not only are many local authority officials on astonishingly high incomes – they have been getting huge pay rises a over the last couple of years as the rest of Britain suffers.

It’s a disgrace. And something that we, as taxpayers, should not put up with. If officials can’t justify the salaries and benefits they are on – they shouldn’t be getting it.

7 Responses to “Councillor gravy train – the sequel…”

  1. Mark Mills Says:

    I think you need to be clear whether you are talking about councillors or senior council officers. Your title implies the former yet your article seems to be about the latter.

  2. Angela Harbutt Says:

    Mark – thanks – perhaps I should have been clearer… original article (april 2009) was about Councillors – this is about council officers – I lump the two together for the purposes of highlighting the costs to the tax payer- especially given the rises in council taxes over recent years. I probably should have thought of a better title! thanks again.

  3. Mark Valladares Says:


    Are you suggesting that the free market should not apply in the case of public officials? Or that councillors should not be offering such salaries?

    In any case, blaming the recipient of a salary decided upon by someone else – which is what you are doing here by calling for them to be effectively ‘named and shamed’ – is hardly helping the debate on value for money.

    If someone is earning £20,000 per annum more than their peers, but through their effective management is saving, say, £500,000 per year for local council tax payers, is that a bad thing? I suggest that it isn’t. It might even be seen as being a good investment.

    I’m not defending pay levels, but your approach is simplistic and contrary to the notion that you reward achievement and punish failure. More like the politics of envy than economic liberalism…

  4. Angela Harbutt Says:

    Hi Mark – I am suggesting that public servants – who are paid for by the taxpayer – should expect their salaries to be in the public domain. I dont think it unreasonable for ALL those in receipt of public money have their salaries known – but I think the very least – those that earn above the average pay should.

    I think it would inform voters on how their tax money is spent for example.

    I also think that where there are pay rises being awarded that are above inflation – that too should be known – and explained. there might be a prefectly good reason for it – or it might be that the employee is a mate of a cllr etc. We just dont know – because its all behind a cloak of secrecy that demands FOI requests to eak the information out.

    If indeed a chief exec of a local council is earning £250,000 then I assume that council can justify it (eg as you suggest – has found a way to cut the council tax bill by 10% or has found huge efficiency savings etc).

    If we are to restore the balance between the ordinary folk -the taxpayers – and the powerful political elite,we need much MORE transparency in how they are spending our money – expect them to justify it when asked and for us to decide whether that is a good use of our money. We can vote out a council (theoretically) if we dont agree with how they allocate OUR money. I dont think a call for more transparency is simplistic nor contrary to any notion of rewarding achievement. Nor do i think it simplistic to despair when attempts are made to stop that.

  5. Psi Says:


    I believe most people would be happy to have a free market system operating. But as it is our money we havce the right to see how the market actually operates at spending our money.

    Assuming the system was applied to all local staff not just councils I would have thought 50k could be considered low (you would get the upper end of people on salary scales in areas like project management, all but the most junior doctors etc) if you were to set it at 2.5 times the countries average salary (approx 60k) you would avoid most of the “normal” staff.

    Normal staff should simply be covered by being publishing pay scales.

    I remember there was a report out a couple of years ago saying the current “market” was totally artificial. Many of these people couldn’t find an equivolent job in the provate sector.

  6. Charlie Says:

    Councils should provide the following information:-

    position, pay, bonus, holiday entitlement, hours worked including flexi-time arrangements, pension, remuneration , job description for every category of employee and total number employeed at each level and job category.

    The person does not have to be named. Councils need to explain whom they they employ, the jobs they do , and how much they pay . Many people may prefer to see more street cleaners and craftsmen repairing property and less white collar administrators.

  7. Psi Says:

    Angela –

    Surley the people at the lower end of the earnings scale would be covered if couciuls simply published salarie scales and how many people are at each level of it?

    It would provide sufficient infomation for voters to make their choices.