There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about Councils using stealth taxes and raising charges in order to pay for the salaries of their Chief Execs and other senior managers. Normally I would ignore such things as the tripe that they are, but over the weekend and the beginning of this week some fairly big names have waded into the debate.
On Monday I heard Grant Shapps discussing this on BBC London, and listened to him trot out this and other lines such as how local authorities should need to do nothing more than a bit of restructuring to save the 4.5%. He happily glossed over the fact that many Councils are facing a cut of much more than this, with some having to make 8.9% this year and then keep on cutting until they’ve saved over 25% over the next few years.
He then spouted the old faithful: “how many chief execs earn more than the Prime Minister”. We’ve spoken about this ridiculous argument before, but it seems to be the default position when it comes to anything to do with money and local authorities. This arbitrarily set wannabe high-water mark should be something that the Daily Express came up with and championed, but instead it appears to have gained traction with the impressionable masses.
The trouble with all of this talk is that it paints local government in a universally bad light. Central government seems to be positioning itself to blame local government should anything go wrong, and in examining the pay of a handful of executives has a quick and easy tag line to stand behind. They ignore the fact that even if these execs went down to a fraction of what they earned, this still wouldn’t even make a dent in the amount that has to be saved and would be nothing more than a political statement.