Towards Transparent Rewards: the move to pay transparency, and the councils who oppose it

Download the full research note (PDF).

The 2010 annual accounts of local authorities and police forces will offer readers something new. After years of campaigning by various groups, and months of political posturing by all parties, these public bodies will be brought into line with equivalent organisations in the public and private sectors.

The Local Government Accounts and Audit (Amendment No.2) (England) Regulations 2009 (the ‘amendment’) requires all relevant public bodies to state in their annual accounts, for both the relevant and prior year, the remuneration of their senior officials. Now councils will have to report on who their most senior staff are, their final remuneration (in a band of £5,000) and how that final sum breaks down (salary, bonus, termination payments, etc). In an important step towards a genuinely transparent rewards system in the public sector, the people who pay for officials’ remuneration will be able to see just how much they’ve been paying.

While it may seem incredible that taxpayers did not already have this right, the amendment was only put in place in the teeth of continued resistance from some councils, police authorities and associated groups. The GMB Union, in its response to the Government’s consultation on the statute, spoke for many organisations that responded to the consultation when it wrote that it “reluctantly accepts the premise that the broad terms of the remuneration of the most senior officials in public authorities should be included in annual reports.”

Following a freedom of information request to the Department of Communities and Local Government, the TaxPayers’ Alliance has obtained all the consultation responses written by public organisations and associated groups. In the research note, we provide a sample of the most interesting responses in a number of key areas.

Mark Wallace, Campaign Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:

“It is pure emotional blackmail to claim that anyone’s children could be threatened by improved pay transparency in local government. That is a pretty low tactic to use, and it should have been dismissed out of hand as scaremongering. It seems that some council officers don’t feel confident that taxpayers will approve of their pay and perks, and so they mounted a desperate attempt to keep them secret. In reality, proper transparency will improve the relationship between taxpayers and the public sector by eliminating the widespread feeling that we are being kept in the dark about how our money is spent. It is ironic that these officers are demanding privacy for themselves work for the very councils which spy on the public with huge numbers of CCTV cameras."

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