Headlines: September 3rd, 2009

Council tax payers and others are being invited to have their say on the rules relating to pay-offs for senior local authority staff who leave their posts. The Audit Commission is today launching a call for a wide range of views on whether the regulations need to be tightened up and how this could be done.

The call for evidence comes as it launches its inquiry into severance settlements following a request last week for the Communities Secretary John Denham. He has asked the Commission to look at the regulations relating to financial agreements between councils and chief executives who move on before their contracts are completed. He is especially concerned about those who leave and then take up a senior post with another local authority.

The Commission say the main question it wants to examine is whether current rules and conventions give adequate protection to the interests of council tax payers. Anyone taking up the invitation to put forward their views can do so from today and for the next month. The Commission says it then hopes to report promptly.

Its chairman, Michael O’Higgins, said: “We already have information from appointed auditors and from our research on trends in chief executive recruitment and pay, published last year. But to give us the widest evidence from which to draw conclusions, we are now asking for views from the public and interested parties.”

The Commission is writing to organisations including the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the Local Government Association for their views and for examples of good and bad practice. It is stressing today that it wants to hear from elected members, chief executives, council audit committees and officials monitoring ethics in local government, as well as from the public.