You’re probably thinking that our frequent coverage of the council chief executive’s pay award is more than a bit boring. In which case, the council will have achieved its objective of waiting for the public to lose interest. It’s a good strategy – and it may well work. It’s up to us all to make sure that it doesn’t.
Anyway, we’re posting this item now, as there are only a few hours left to watch the news item on ‘BBC South Today’ which highlights concern about the award. Peter has provided this link to it: www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0007jlh (Fast-forward by a little more than eight minutes to watch the relevant discussion.)
While we’re on this subject, below is the text of the e-mail that we sent all councillors at the outset. One councillor was polite enough to reply, and we know that some are sympathetic to what we wrote. But the Knoll Road fortress pulled up its drawbridge and the occupants are generally sheltering inside. It would seem that a number of them are quoting the same text by the Conservative Group, which no longer refers to ‘pay’, but to ‘an additional duties allowance’. Presumably they’re preparing to claim that procedures regarding increases in ‘pay’ don’t apply to ‘allowances’?
You’ll see that we called upon the current Leader to disown what seems to be a completely unacceptable act by their predecessor. Predictably, they haven’t. They’re tarred with the same brush, it seems.
“I’m sure you’re fully aware of public disquiet over the Chief Executive’s salary increase. Indeed, I believe that some of you share that disquiet.
“It’s not my intention here to question the size of the award – that’s a matter for another time. But I have watched the council’s affairs for perhaps sixteen years, first as the chair of the Camberley Society, and more recently as the Camberley Eye. I cannot remember any event during those years that has brought the council into such widespread disrepute.
“You know that some constituents are only too willing to accuse ‘the council’ of corruption and of acting in self-interest. A belief that the salary increase was the ‘gift’ of the Leader, with no-one else involved, is likely to feed that suspicion for years to come. Whenever the council says that it cannot afford to provide a service, or it increases council tax, residents will remember recent events, and the accusations will arise again. The damage that has been done is long term.
“In crisis management the normal advice is to over-react. It is hard to recover from under-reacting. I believe that the council – under your guidance – should follow this advice. Specifically:
“- pay awards to senior council officers should always be publicised (not buried) on the council’s website – and also in Heathscene. The full numbers should be explained simply (why is it that the Chief Executive has been paid far more than indicated in the council’s ‘pay scale’ document? Isn’t this a nonsense?)
“- The Local Government Association strongly recommends using a remuneration committee. Such a body – given a high-profile – should be set up to determine senior pay awards. The council apparently has an Independent Remuneration Panel, but, as far as I can tell, the panel was not consulted about the Chief Executive’s award.
“- the fact that the chairs of every council committee come from the same party gives the impression of the same old nepotism, and it should be corrected. It may be that the chairs are, in practice, often the best qualified to fill the roles, but they can still provide their expertise by supporting a leader from a different party.
“- at the individual level, the current Leader was the deputy of the previous Leader for years. This suggests that they held the same views on many matters. The new Leader MUST make it clear that they disown the action of their predecessor as far as the pay award is concerned, otherwise it would be reasonable to conclude that they support it. (It would be a surprising breakdown in communication if the previous deputy did not know what their principal was doing.) But I believe that the Leader has been mute, so far, about what has happened. This is unwise.
“I suggest that the above be done openly, honestly, quickly and very visibly.”