Headlines: July 24th, 2008

Local authorities say an Audit Commission report into factors influencing the jobs market for local authority chief executives does not give the full picture. The Commission’s discussion paper, ‘Tougher At The Top’ says poorer performing councils
increasingly hire chief executives with a track record, but there is no evidence that those brought in from other authorities are any more effective in delivering improved performance than those promoted from within.

The Local Government Association, though, says it is natural that
councils will want to recruit people with experience and it says the improvement in councils’performance speaks for itself.

The Commission found that reliance on recruiting existing chief executives to what were increasingly demanding and insecure roles led to a domino effect with several local authorities meeting the costs of recruitment when a single vacancy arose. This, it
said, was compounded by a general lack of succession planning. It also led to salary increases as authorities competed to recruit or retain the chief executives.

Paul Coen, the LGA Chief Executive, said research showed that compared to those employed in private and public organisations with comparable turnover and staffing levels local council chief executives were the lowest paid. ‘A chief executive at a big council
could earn on average over twice as much in a public or private organisation of a similar size’, he added.

Mr. Coen said it was misleading to suggest that the average pay of council chief executives was 150,000 pounds a year as that figure was based on just the largest third of authorities. The average pay of all council chief executives was, the LGA said, 106,000 pounds.

Mr. Coen continued, ‘It is also right that chief executive pay is subject to public scrutiny. Councils need talented people in top management positions and in deciding salary levels they have to balance this with other policy objectives, including the need, in a
tight financial situation, for all salaries to be demonstrably reasonable.’