John Denham - Communities Secretary and the most surprising success of the June reshuffle - has ordered the Audit Commission to investigate the problem of council 'boomerang bosses'. (BBC News, Telegraph).
The local government 'boomerang boss' has become a ubiquitous feature in the TPA's annual Town Hall Rich List, the report which really propelled this issue to national attention. At the top of our most recent list are numerous Council Chief Executives who, for reasons that too often go unexplained, leave their very well paid job at one council, taking away with them hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation for 'loss of office', only to then slide into another generously rewarded Chief Executive position at another council just a couple of months later.
The practice has provoked concern among councillors and council taxpayers, as compensation agreements for the early departure of an executive - often thrashed out in secret and protected by confidentiality agreements - have run to astronomical levels. One Chief Executive took away nearly £500,000 for losing their job, yet finding another even before the year was out.
That concern has now been picked up by the Government, with John Denham's announcement confirming the DCLG's commitment to tackling the problem of Local Government pay. Pledges to far greater transparency in town hall remuneration, and suggestions that councillors should err on the side of restraint rather than generosity when agreeing contracts, mark a real step change in the Government's attitude to Local Government spending, and one which all taxpayers should welcome warmly.
As an interesting footnote to today's annoucement, when we (the TPA) raised the issue of boomerang bosses at the Public Administration Select Committee's inquiry into public sector executive pay, the head of SOLACE (a local government executive association) dismissed our claims as overdone. It wasn't a serious problem Mr Clark argued, just TPA sensationalism. Seems the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government doesn't agree.