We haven’t forgotten the recent disquiet over the council’s chief executive’s pay rise, and we’ll almost certainly keep commenting about it. We believe that the council has to take action – voluntarily or otherwise – to earn public trust.
You will know that, almost certainly only because of the disquiet (the pay rise was apparently approved some six months before the council said anything publicly,) the council recently justified the pay rise by saying:
“In 2018 the previous Leader of the Council decided that a full review of the senior management structure was needed and should include consideration of the Chief Executive’s remuneration, which was last reviewed in 2004.
“In early 2019 an allowance equivalent to £15,000 per annum was approved by the then Leader to recognise the additional work and responsibilities being undertaken by the Chief Executive.”
Now, of course, that might just have been carelessly written – though we doubt it. But the wording gives no indication that anyone other than the Leader was involved in determining the size of the pay rise. It gives no indication that there is any detailed record available of any analysis upon which it was based. It gives no indication of any prior intent to explain the increase to residents.
If these indication are a true reflection of the actual circumstances, the Leader’s actions would almost certainly not be in compliance with the council’s own constitution, which states: “All decisions of the Council will be made in accordance with the following principles……due consultation and the taking of professional advice from officers; a presumption in favour of openness; providing information on the options considered and giving reasons for the decision taken”
The council’s constitution has further requirements regarding changes in the remuneration of council employees. We’ll probably have to submit a Freedom of Information enquiry to find out whether these, and the constitution as a whole, were complied with.
We can find no response to the e-mail that we sent to the Executive Head of Finance enquiring about the rationale behind the pay rise. We do not believe that the somewhat superficial statement that we’ve quoted above would be sufficient to satisfy an auditor. Because residents have the right to make their views known to the council’s auditor, we will be writing again to the Executive Head requesting that he informs the auditor that, in our view, the latest Financial Statements provide insufficient information to justify the pay increase, and that, therefore, the auditor cannot provide assurance that the council provides good value for money. The auditor can decide whether we’re over-reacting or not.
The council provides an official Complaints Procedure. .This has to be followed before submitting a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, but it does mean that there are options for investigating the way the pay rise was approved and implemented. .